The Abe and Irene Pollin Winter Happening comes but once a year. It is a day when both Jewish and Palestinian elementary school children in Jerusalem come together to celebrate peace and participate in a festive mixed basketball practice and day of fun. Palestinian communities including Beit Safafa, Ein Rafa, and Esawiah were represented as well as the Jewish Israeli school Keshet and the community Kiryat Anavim. Staff and young leaders from PPI – ME’s Leadership Development Program (LDP) were on hand to enjoy this special day of basketball and art with some of our youngest participants.
The Winter Happening is a fun-first day, beginning with a warm-up led by International Fellow, Jamie Walsh, that included some kickboxing exercises. “I wanted to give the kids a unique warm-up experience and give them something different than they are used to at a normal practice or Twinning. We had the music turned up to put the kids in the mood to have fun.”
After the warm-up, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians kids were divided into four mixed groups and participated in four stations that included basketball dribbling competitions, a shooting obstacle course and a special art activity led by Peace Curriculum Facilitator Nissreen Najjar. In additional to sport, it is also important for the kids to work together in situations outside the game of basketball from time to time, so they can see that their interactions with the people from the other side of the conflict are not limited to the court. In the shooting obstacle course, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and even a few elves came between the kids and their basket. There was definitely merriment in the air!
The Winter Happening is also special because it allows children to interact with other kids on a wider scale than they do normally. All year long Jewish Israeli and Palestinian children play with their partner community at Twinning events, but at the Winter Happening they are able to meet kids from several different communities, both Palestinian and Jewish Israeli.
In addition, the presence of the LDP is two-fold in its importance. “The LDP were excellent at the Winter Happening. They are the best role models for these younger kids of how the Palestinians and the Israelis can work together, play together, and be friends.” North-Center Operations Manager Heni Bizawi shared this, while being hopeful for this next generation of PPIers. “It’s really the goal of our program to see these younger kids following in the footsteps of the LDP to create another generation of successful PeacePlayers participants who have learned to open their hearts and minds.”
Thank you to the Pollin family for once again supporting the Winter Happening, and helping PeacePlayers make this event an important annual tradition. Thank you also to the United States Agency for International Development for supporting the PeacePlayers Basketball Clubs program in all of its facets.