This week’s blog is written by Toot Imbar, a member of the Leadership Development Program, the Jerusalem All-Stars, who was one of 24 members of the recent delegation to the United States, supported by SportsUnited – The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.
I joined PeacePlayers a little over three years ago. Like many, I joined for the basketball and stayed because I loved it. I love going to practices, I love the weekend retreats, I love our joint meals and mostly, I love the people. I stayed because all of these reasons, I participated, I enjoyed, but I never understood the true impact it had on my life until this recent summer and the trip to the U.S that came right after it.
This summer has been tense; I remember the first siren we had in Jerusalem. It was around 8 pm, all of my family was home and we all ran down to the shelter. The protocol states you have to stay in the shelter for at least 10 minutes after the sirens. As we were sitting waiting for the ten minutes to end, I got a text message. The message was from my Palestinian friend, Aysha who lives in Beit Safafa, an Arab village in Jerusalem. She wrote: “Toot, are you and your family doing ok?”
You might think this is just a simple text message. It only takes about 30 seconds to write and another five to send. I think, this simple text message, these 35 seconds, can show just how much PeacePlayers has impacted my life, and many other lives. Through PeacePlayers I learned that there is not one side, or even two sides to this conflict, but many. With PeacePlayers we are creating a new side; a side of understanding, of trust, of compassion, of respect. We are creating a side that emphasizes differences and similarities. It’s a side of peace.
I’m not ignorant; I know that things are very complicated, but I also know that it is up to us to make a change. Every time I’m with PeacePlayers I feel like I’m making a change. Whenever our [mixed Palestinian-Israeli] All-Stars team plays a game, or when we visit each other’s houses, and even when we simply play basketball, I can feel change.
Toot makes the last second shot for PPI’s Under 18 All Stars Team, winning the Israeli National League Championship for the Southern Division:
When we went on a trip to the U.S three weeks ago, I could feel this change during almost every moment. I got to know, and to speak to many people who share the PeacePlayers vision. People were very excited to see us, hear from us and support us. These groups of people inspired me to keep working towards our shared mission. Seeing the dedication of Brendan Tuohey, Chad Ford, and Brian Kriftcher towards a vision taught me how much one can accomplish. So many lives are influenced and changed because of their vision.
But I think the most important thing I learned was something that I’ve been struggling with for the past few months. It is the fact that I am lucky. I was born to good parents, I have good friends, and I’m in a good school. I always have food on the table, I’ve never faced real danger, and I was never lacking anything. I am lucky.
During the past few months especially during this summer’s events I was struggling with this luck of mine. How come I get to be safe while others are getting killed, or having their houses blown up, or living in shelters? Am I a bad person for being lucky? Should I be ashamed?
During this trip, I think I understood the answer to this question. I’m not a bad person for being lucky. But I have an obligation that comes with this “luck.” My obligation is to help people who are less lucky; to help spread this “luck” of mine. And that’s what I want to do in life, I don’t know how exactly, but I know that by participating in PeacePlayers I’ve already started to work towards my goal; to make this world, this region a little bit better.