Last weekend was the first retreat for the Coaching for Reconciliation Program, a two-year professional certification course that combines basketball and conflict resolution education. This retreat was the first of four retreats that students will attend during the two-year program. The purpose of the two-day retreats is to teach the coaches in training how to use basketball to bridge divides. Peace education facilitators Renana Gal and Nissreen Najjar were on hand to teach students the PPI peace education model, which is based on the Arbinger Institutes Anatomy of Peace model of conflict transformation. Vito, PPI-ME Director of Basketball Operations, also presented on the responsibility of a basketball coach to be first and foremost an educator. In Renana’s words, Vito’s presentation was “inspiring and did a fantastic job to sum up the overall mission of PPI-ME.” Vito was also enthusiastic about his opportunity to share how important coaches are in the lives of their players. “It was fantastic to take PPI-ME to another dimension as part of this professional course. It was the feeling of being at the university.”
Some of the students are from PPI-ME’s Leadership Development Program (LDP), but others are new to PPI-ME. Two of the new students are Dorit, a Jewish-Israeli woman from Mevaseret Zion, and Alla, a Palestinian man from Ein Rafa. Mevaseret Zion and Ein Rafa are both just west of Jerusalem and are nearby to one another. Both Dorit and Alla were thrilled with their experience at the retreat.
For Dorit, the Coaching for Reconciliation Program was just what she was looking for. Dorit has had the dream to coach kids in basketball, and living around Arab villages has inspired her to seek out a way to coach mixed teams of Israelis and Palestinians. “I thought my ideas were too big for me to make a difference. Finding a solution on a political level seems out of reach, but working with my community to educate young children is a reality. I want to teach them to see the other side as equal, and to have the dignity to respect one another.” She went on to share how she was inspired by the impact that PPI-ME has already made. Being at the retreat allowed her to see LDP members from both sides of the conflict interacting with one another. “It’s enough to look at these kids and see that it works. It looks like they are really, really great friends.”
Alla, who is campaigning to be mayor of Ein Rafa, is excited to take what he learned back to his community. “I believe in the conflict management teachings from the retreat. Today, I was speaking with my friends at work about how these things can be used in our everyday lives. Not only with Palestinians and Israelis – It starts in the home and at the office in the way we view each other.” Alla plans to take steps to implementing these practices in Ein Rafa. “I want to be one of the members of PeacePlayers bringing people together.”
While Alla was most impacted learning the teaching of the peace education curriculum, Dorit got it from Nissreen and Renana’s introductory activity, which asked the students to draw flags that represented the identity of their nation and their personal identity. Dorit explained that as she drew the Israeli flag as her national identity she felt something was missing. “For my second flag, I drew a puzzle representing the many peoples and cultures that exist here. It’s not only Arabs and Israelis but people from so many backgrounds.” Dorit also echoed Alla’s desire to be a part of the PPI-ME mission. “Speaking with Vito about the evolution of PPI and his vision for the LDP got me really excited about getting more involved. I hope to take a greater part in PeacePlayers in the future.”