Palestinian and Israelis Take the U.S. by Storm

National Security Advisor Susan Rice shows our kids that she's got game at the White House

National Security Adviser Susan Rice shows our kids that she’s got game at the White House

PPI – Middle East’s 24 Palestinian and Israeli youth leaders have just returned from their action-packed two weeks in the United States. We are excited to have our players back and to be able to share some of their highlights from the trip.

The goal of the trip was to broaden the participants’ view of the American culture, provide them the opportunities to improve their basketball skills and leadership capacity, and give them the chance to share what they have learned with the rest of us at PPI. The young leaders were afforded the chance to speak to community leaders, sports executives, and politicians. Throughout their trip – whether kicking back on a farm or playing basketball at the White House with National Security Adviser Susan Rice, the young leaders inspired the people they met.

On their visit to the States, the youth got first-hand experiences with American culture and also

Mussa takes a swing at the plate while volunteering with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

Mussa takes a swing at the plate while volunteering with the Washington Nationals Youth Baseball Academy

showcased the importance of sports in America. “People love playing sports of any kind,” said Mussa, a member of PPI since 2008. One of the sports that Mussa is talking about is baseball. During the trip, the youth had their first  experience with baseball, a classic American pastime that is largely unknown in the Middle East, as they volunteered with the National Youth Baseball Academy.

While they experienced many American trends and traditions, Neta, a member of PPI since 2010, noticed the similarities both cultures shared. “We are not that different culturally.” Yet, for her and many others on the trip they noticed how their environments at home impacts their life. “We have different issues and problems in our daily lives because of the conflict,” says Neta.

Traveling sometimes puts things into prospective for us. This definitely happened on the exchange. The young leaders realized how special and rare their work is with PPI. Going to the White House to met Susan Rice as she hosted them for a basketball game showed them the value of their work. “It was an experience of a lifetime to meet such an important person. Most Americans don’t get to play basketball at the White House,” says Mussa.

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Another highlight of the trip, youth got to go to a Brooklyn Nets pre-season game and meet center Brook Lopez.

Even though, for Neta, participating in PPI is a normal part of her schedule, going to the White House, meeting politicians and community leaders helped her understand how big and important her role is in PPI. Susan Rice was impressed and inspired by the young leaders’ involvement with PPI. Witnessing the close friendships and teamwork on the court highlighted the similarities of hopes and aspirations of young people across the globe. Seeing the PPI members on the basketball court demonstrated “that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is possible, and within reach.”

Thank you to SportsUnited of the United Department of State, Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, for making this once-in-a-lifetime experience possible.

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