This summer, AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and PPI – ME partnered to hold a unique event in Jerusalem. AIPAC was hosting fifteen retired NBA (National Basketball Association) players traveling within the framework of the ‘Athlete Ambassadors’ program, and wanted to introduce them to the unconventional way PPI uses basketball to bridge divides.
Among the athletes on the roster were Stephen Bardo, Dr. Dick Barnett, Kenny Battle, Willie Burton, Joe Barry Carroll, Cedric Ceballos, Dale Ellis, Spencer Haywood, Stephen Howard, Marvin Roberts, Danny Schayes, Sedric Toney, and Sam Vincent.
The event, held August 1, fell during the middle of Ramadan. Therefore, to start things out, all of the NBA players, members of AIPAC and ‘Athlete Ambassadors’ teams, and about 20 PPI members and employees, broke fast together at the Beit Safafa Community Center. Before everyone dug in, Muhammad Salman, a member of PPI – ME’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) started the meal with some insight as to what Ramadan is and what it means to the Muslim community.
After everyone (especially those who had been fasting for the day) finished eating, they were ready to get on the basketball court. About 30 kids and their 15 new veerrrryyyy tall friends ran basketball drills, talked about the PPI curriculum, shot hoops, and strutted their stuff. The kids got lessons from the NBA players, and taught their professional counterparts some of their moves.
It was evident that everyone took away something from the event. While the kids learned new bball techniques, the basketball players saw firsthand how the sport they have been playing for years could actually help to solve centuries-old conflicts. Needless to say, everyone walked away far more knowledgeable. A great time was had by all!