Last week, we received a visit from PPI board member Win Sheridan and Executive Director Brendan Tuohey, who made the long plane trip from Washington, D.C. to check out the work we’re doing on the ground. Although Brendan has been to the region numerous times over the years, this was Win’s first trip to the site. Win got a chance to meet hundreds of our Palestinian and Israeli kids in Israel and the West Bank. The action started immediately upon landing Sunday evening, when Win and Brendan traveled straight from the airport to the Hand-in-Hand School gym in Jerusalem, where they caught our session with women’s golf star Morgan Pressel. After that, we decided to give them a break and let them rest up for the activity-packed days ahead of them.
The next morning started out with a tour of the Old City of Jerusalem, led by a tour guide named Martin, who also happens to be the father of one of our longtime PeacePlayers, Yuval. He gave them some of the city’s rich and complicated history and also shared how happy he was that his daughter has had a chance to be a part of PeacePlayers. After that, Win and Brendan drove straight to Ramallah, where they caught a basketball clinic with Palestinian girls in the Jalazone refugee camp. Win got right into the action, lining up for relays together with our girls. And was that it for the day’s events? No way! From Ramallah, Win and Brendan drove back to Jerusalem, where they got to practice with a group of Palestinian and Israeli league players from East Jerusalem and Holon, and then catch a professional Eurocup game, witnessing Hapoel Jerusalem succumb to Ukranian team BC Donetsk.
Day three started with a trip to the Dead Sea, where Win, Brendan and a couple of our staff members got to dip in the extra buoyant, salty waters. Then it was once again back to Jerusalem for another Twinning, this time for one team from East and another from West Jerusalem. There they were also joined by Tal Alter from the PPI headquarters, who was visiting Israel with family, and American basketball player Dan Grunfeld. The Twinning was followed up by a session of PPI’s Peace Education Curriculum, led by members of the girls’ Leadership Development Program, who showed off their most impressive facilitation skills.
On the fourth and final day of Win and Brendan’s visit, we held the first “Minis” Twinning of the season for kids from Keshet School in West Jerusalem, and Beit Safafa in the East. After meeting the Jerusalem Minis, Win and Brendan got on the court with our Ein Rafa Minis, who despite the cold temperatures, were in high spirits! After that, it was sadly time for Win and Brendan to head to the airport. They both told us they are going home with good memories a plenty, and Win had some especially kind words to share about his first experience in the Middle East:
“It was truly awesome to be at the twinnings to witness it first-hand! To see Jewish and Arab girls and boys playing together as a team and having fun was incredible! It just seemed natural for them to be together and, obviously, true friendships are being built. The leadership session was excellent, as well! I have no doubt that some of the girls will emerge as true leaders and even some will become PPI coaches, but, regardless, all benefit a great deal from the program. The positive attitude, confidence, relationship skills, discipline, etc. they get from it will serve them well in the years to come. Overall, it was a phenomenal experience that I will never forget!”