As PPI – ME begins to wrap up and look back at the 2009 – 2010 programming season, one thing is clear: our kids can ball! PPI – ME youth are united by a love of basketball, which is reflected in the hard work and dedication put into every practice and scrimmage. The 2009 – 2010 PPI – ME Highlight Reel captures this love for the game, and shows off the talents of our young basketball players. Check it out!
Author Archives: younesj
On May 16th, PPI – ME’s female athletes gathered at the Hand in Hand School in Pat, Jerusalem, for their final day of activity in the 2009 – 2010 season. A day of friendly scrimmages played on integrated teams, the event brought together girls from the Jewish and Arab communities of Beit Safafa, Esawiah, Bet Shemesh, Katamon and Givat Ram.
The day began with a “Mini-Basket” game, which gave PPI – ME’s youngest participants (ages 8-10) a chance to show off their improvement so far this year. PPI – ME’s middle (11-13) and oldest (13-15) age brackets also took the court for their own integrated games.
To everyone’s delight, the closing ceremonies included fun contests – with a crowd 75 strong watching, participants tried to make a basket while facing backwards. Winners, of course, earned a prize.
At the end of the event, the girls said goodbye to each other and their coaches for the summer – while expressing excitement and anticipation for the upcoming programming season. With a record number of games and events held this year, the solidification of several twinning partners into integrated teams, and a marked increase in players’ overall basketball skill level this year, the future looks bright for these PPI – ME youth.
On Wednesday, May 12th, PPI – ME’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) team traveled to the city of Rehovot to complete their second community service project of the year. The boys and girls of the LDP spent the evening volunteering with a basketball team for youth with special needs, a talented group that competes regularly in the Special Olympics.
During practice, LDP members served as assistants to the head coach, helping the athletes run through their drills. At the end, the two squads scrimmaged together, a fun exhibition game that ended on a high note – with a buzzer-beating shot by one of the Special Olympics athletes! Following the practice, everyone gathered to enjoy refreshments, take pictures and socialize. The Special Olympics team members enthusiastically welcomed PPI – ME and asked to hold more such events, indicating a bright future for the partnership between the Rehovot Club and PeacePlayers.
Wednesday’s event was arranged by LDP member Heni Biwazi, who also serves as a PPI – ME coach in Jaffa. In addition to volunteering regularly as assistant coaches in their home communities and at PeacePlayer events, LDP members take part in at least two major community service projects each year. Earlier this winter, LDP gave a presentation on coexistence to a group of girls enrolled in a preparatory course for the Israeli army. Projects such as these allow the LDP to give back to the larger community, a crucial step in the process of learning to be a leader.
Earlier this month, PPI – ME launched its annual Jerusalem Peace League, which brings PeacePlayers International youth together with outside teams for friendly basketball games. The league, a highly-anticipated part of yearly programming activity, allows twinning groups to further develop their teamwork and basketball skills in a competitive setting. Besides giving PPI – ME children additional playing experience, the league also exposes youth throughout Jerusalem not enrolled in PPI to the organization’s message of mutual respect and coexistence.
This year, PPI – ME also debuted its Girls’ Peace League, engaging approximately 70 young female athletes. Divided into beginners and advanced brackets, the girls have completed the first two rounds of league play and will gather once more this month to decide who will advance to the championship in May. Action in the boys’ group is also underway, with youth from Beit Safafa, Katamon and Gilo all striving to take home the 2010 Peace League title.
Founded in 2007, the Jerusalem Peace League has reached more than 500 youth in its three years of operation. Over 100 young East and West Jerusalemites are participating this year, hosted by the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem. In addition to its role as a hub of league activity – Hand in Hand is meeting place for teams from Beit Safafa, the Keshet School, Katamon, Gilo, Pat, Leyada High School, Esawiah and Beit Shemesh – the school is also represented by a team of its own, with the Hand in Hand 8th grade girls competing in the beginner’s bracket.
Check out the pictures below for a glimpse of 2010 Jerusalem Peace League action:
On Friday, April 23rd, PPI – ME held its 2010 Spring Festival at Tel Aviv’s outdoor Sportek Park. A highly anticipated annual event, the festival brings together children throughout PPI – ME’s program areas for a day of games and fun activities. This year was particularly special due the presence of several visitors including ESPN.com writer and BYU – Hawaii Professor of Conflict Resolution, Chad Ford; Sports Illustrated writer, Alexander Wolff; PPI Executive Director, Brendan Tuohey; and Brendan’s daughter, Anna Tuohey, who showed off her basketball skills playing with PPI – ME’s youngest “mini-basket” age-group.
In keeping with this year’s theme of coexistence through art, made possible by a grant from the Gould Family Foundation, children learned the basics of playing the darbuka drum, an instrument commonly used in Middle Eastern music. They also collectively painted a PeacePlayers mural, and created personalized basketball magnets. To everyone’s delight, the Sportek’s giant trampoline was open and available for jumping. Of course, the highlight for many was the hotly contested basketball games, all played on integrated teams. The positive energy and teamwork on display at the Spring Festival was a definite indicator of the strong relationships that have formed between twinning partners this year.
The 2010 PPI – ME Spring Festival brought together approximately 150 Arab and Jewish young people from Jaffa, Tel Aviv, Beit Shemesh and several neighborhoods in East and West Jerusalem, including Beit Safafa, Katamon, Esawiah, Givat Ram and Pat. A corps of PPI – ME volunteers came out to referee, run the clocks and keep score. Several LDP members served as coaches for the younger children, continuing to grow as the future leaders of the program. PPI – ME would like to thank the Gould Family Foundation and all the youth, coaches, volunteers and visitors for making the 2010 Festival a success!
“Don’t play with landmines, bombs and guns…play football” was the theme reiterated over the past week to PPI – ME coaches and youth, who participated in a football festival in Amman, Jordan, sponsored by the non-profit organization Spirit of Soccer. Founded in 1996 by Scotty Lee, Spirit of Soccer uses the sport of football to educate children around the world about the dangers of landmines, explosive remnants of war (ERWs), and unexploded ordinances (UXOs). The organization operates programs that combine grassroots football clinics with mine risk education in countries such as Bosnia, Cambodia and Iraq.
From March 28th – April 5th, 2010, Spirit of Soccer teamed up with FIFA, the Jordanian Soccer Federation, the Jordanian non-profit organization Generations for Peace, the US Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement (PM/WRA), Beyond Sport, and the National Committee for De-mining and Rehabilitation (NCDR) to raise awareness about ERWs in the Middle East. Delegations from landmine/ERW-affected places such as Iraq, Jordan, southern Lebanon and the West Bank were invited to learn more about using sport to keep children healthy and safe from these dangerous weapons.
As part of the Palestinian delegation, four PPI – ME representatives took part in a 5-day football coaching and mine risk education course. Led by official FIFA trainers and mine removal experts, the course delved into the specifics of teaching youth both the game of football, and how to recognize and avoid ERWs. The clinic culminated in a two-day football tournament, during which PPI – ME children participated in a series of games and fun events with their peers from Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. The final day – which coincided with the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action – also included a de-mining demonstration and a special visit from HRH Prince Faisal bin Al Hussein of Jordan, the founder and chairman of Generations for Peace.
PPI – ME would like to thank Spirit of Soccer and its partner organizations for providing our children and coaches with the opportunity to take part in this informative and enjoyable event.
At the beginning of the 2009–10 programming season, PPI – ME formed a new team for 8th grade girls at the Hand in Hand School for Bilingual Education in Jerusalem. Though the girls are learning basketball for the first time, they have quickly picked up the sport and regularly play alongside some of PPI – ME’s more experienced athletes. The group itself is a reflection of the diversity of the school – Arabic, Hebrew, English and Dutch are among the languages spoken by team members. This year the Hand in Hand School twins with teams from the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Esawiah and the town of Beit Shemesh. The girls have been coming together twice per month for joint practices and games, all leading up to the much-anticipated Jerusalem Peace League, which tips off next month. Below are some highlights from this season’s Hand in Hand twinning activities:
As a general rule, for PPI-ME, a “twinning” can be any activity that brings Arab and Jewish children together. At PPI – ME, twinnings can take many forms and are typically catered to the needs and abilities of the participating youth. To better understand how twinnings occur in the Middle East, let’s take a look at one of PPI – ME’s most successful twinning groups, the Beit Safafa – Keshet School team.
Last programming season, PPI – ME formed a basketball team with students from the Keshet School, located in Katamon, Jerusalem. As a first step, staff members met several times to develop a relationship with the school’s principal, who then allowed PPI – ME to recruit during school hours. After inviting girls in the 5th and 6th grades to a try-out, a team with approximately 15 players was created. For the first two months, the girls learned the fundamentals of basketball from their local Jewish coach, Osnat Ginati. Using exercises from PPI’s Peace Education Curriculum, they also began preparing to meet Arab girls from their twinned community of Beit Safafa, a new experience for the vast majority of the group.
In parallel to the formation of the Keshet School team, PPI – ME Program Director Samer Elayan and local coaches began training a group of 5th and 6th grade girls from Beit Safafa, a neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The girls were recruited from the community’s schools; a few heard about the team from their sisters, who play on an older Beit Safafa squad. A native of Beit Safafa, Samer knows many of the principals, parents and children in this neighborhood. In addition to easing the recruiting process, this creates a sense of trust between the community and PPI – ME, as parents allow their children to participate in basketball and peacebuilding because they know the person leading these activities.
After approximately two months of basketball practices in their respective local communities, the Keshet School and Beit Safafa girls met for their first joint activity. This was held at the Hand in Hand School, a multicultural and bilingual elementary school in Jerusalem that provides a welcoming venue for PPI– ME events. Initial twinnings are generally based on the PPI – ME “twinning curriculum,” which incorporates high-energy, fun basketball drills with teambuilding exercises. These first meetings are often led by PPI International Fellows, who have gotten to know the children on both sides and thus serve as a neutral party.
Beit Safafa and Keshet continued to meet twice a month for the rest of the programming season. Towards the end of the year, they began playing mixed games during twinnings. During the summer, a few of the girls participated in the annual Jerusalem Streetball Tournament, the only integrated team to do so. Besides making local headlines, the girls bonded and further developed their basketball skills.
This year, Beit Safafa – Keshet has taken an important step towards becoming one integrated team. The girls now practice together once each week, and regularly play in competitive games. Tellingly, off-the-court interactions have increased as well. The girls color, exchange stickers and try to talk (though this can be difficult because of the language barrier between Hebrew and Arabic speakers) with each other after practices. Recently, one Keshet School girl brought in a cake to share with the entire team on her birthday. Without fail, the girls play “Knock-out” (also known as “Survivor” here) together before the start of every practice.
From the very first meeting until now, the Keshet and Beit Safafa girls have made enormous strides towards fulfilling the PPI mission of uniting youth from divided communities. Their twinnings have evolved over time, from twice monthly meetings that included only basketball drills, to games and weekly joint practices. The team is now coached by Samer Elayan, who has developed a connection with the girls from both his home community and the Keshet School. Drawn by a love of basketball, the girls are setting an important precedent just by being together.
PPI – ME’s successful recruiting efforts in September 2009 led to the creation of three integrated teams in the city of Jaffa. These groups, which engage boys and girls ages 6-13, practice twice each week at the Arab-Jewish Community Center, a key PPI partner and host of many of our basketball events. The PPI – ME program in Jaffa is truly a reflection of the multicultural nature of the city itself – in addition to Arab and Jewish participants, the PPI – ME teams include children originally from the Ivory Coast, Vietnam and Europe. As a result, it is not uncommon to hear Program Manager and coach Tony Hamaty switch between Arabic, Hebrew, English and French when giving instructions for a drill.
The oldest team in Jaffa (ages 11-13) is led by Heni Bizawi, one of PPI – ME’s youngest and most promising coaches. Heni, also a member of the Leadership Development Program (LDP) squad, has worked with Jaffa youth for several years and continues to impress with her strong coaching skills and knowledge of the game. When not coaching, playing in the LDP or attending high school, Heni can be found on the court with PPI – ME Basketball Operations Manager Vito Gillic’, who coaches her Israeli club team in the city of Holon.
Throughout the current programming season, PPI – ME has been building the foundation for a strong and successful program in Jaffa. In addition to regular practices, Jaffa youth have played in tournaments such as the 2009 “Holiday Happening,” and are eagerly looking forward to more such events in the spring. With Tony, Heni, and a cadre of talented young athletes, PPI – ME Jaffa is becoming a model for both basketball and coexistence in the city.
Make sure you check out the end of this post to learn how you can help support PeacePlayers International for free with just two simple clicks.
Social service is a key component of PPI – ME’s Leadership Development Program (LDP). The Arab and Jewish members of the LDP squad all regularly volunteer at practices, games and tournaments – even leading special events such as the 2009 “Holiday Happening.” The team also periodically takes part in social action projects, designed to spread the PPI – ME message of coexistence while serving the larger community.
In February 2010, the LDP gathered at the Hand in Hand School in Jerusalem to speak to a group of young Israeli women currently enrolled in a pre-army preparatory course. Military service is mandatory in Israel, with most people serving 2-3 years upon graduation from high school. The women, who previously completed a conflict-resolution workshop facilitated by the Arbinger Institute as part of their training, came to PPI – ME to learn more about Palestinian life and Arab-Jewish cooperation, and to see Arbinger applied to the basketball court.
A PPI – ME coach spoke first about the history of his native village of Beit Safafa and his daily life there, followed by presentations on the mission and impact of PPI – ME. LDP members, who hail from a range of Arab and Jewish communities – including Beit Safafa, Esawiah, Bet Shemesh, Katamon and Holon – explained why they joined PPI – ME, what they had learned by participating, and what they enjoy most about the program. After fielding questions from the pre-army training group, the LDP team demonstrated a drill from the PPI Peace Education curriculum, which teaches the principles of Arbinger through basketball. A cameraman from Arbinger, who interviewed several PPI – ME players and coaches, was also on hand to document the evening’s events. As in any practice, the session ended with a hotly-contested, full-court LDP scrimmage.
Want to take a simple action to support the boys and girls of PeacePlayers International – Middle East? We’re now eligible for inclusion in the latest edition of CauseWorld, a mobile app that lets you earn “karmas” – badges backed up by donations from Citi and Kraft – for your favorite causes just by visiting your own local hangouts. Vote for PPI to be one of three new Causes included in this round. (You can find us fourth from the bottom of the list on the right.) There’s no registration required and, with just a few seconds of your time, you’ll help others support PPI for a lifetime!