In today’s blog post, PeacePlayers International – Middle East Fellow, Heba El-Hendi, writes about the beginning of Twinnings season. Twinnings help bridge the divides between the different communities involved in PeacePlayers.
Our Twinning season has finally started! The Twinning program functions as PeacePlayers International-Middle East’s core as it aims to bring communities, Jewish and Arab, together to change perceptions and bridge divides. Each community we work with is paired, or twinned, with a community from the other side of the conflict to practice with twice a month. Usually the paired communities live in close proximity to one another but because of the situation, rarely do they interact on a positive, regular basis. By making the practice a fun and meaningful interaction through drills, relays, and scrimmages, youth are able to associate positive attributes to the ‘other side’. Yet, these changed perceptions take time.
Twinned partners, specifically newly twinned teams, often face some challenges at the beginning. It’s difficult to navigate the different cultures, new faces, and different languages. Many come nervous or scared to the first Twinning because of these challenges. Our International Fellow, Courtney Boylan shares what she noticed at the Twinnings: “At the beginning the players were hesitant to interact with each other and as coaches we needed to aid those interactions through certain drills.” In these ice breaker drills players dribble balls to the center and interact briefly with each other through high fives and other minor gestures. “By the end of the Twinning, interactions were happening naturally,” says Courtney. By splitting of into small integrated teams and adding a little spirit of competition through relay races, the players find that they take on a collective team identity and cheer each other on to complete the basketball task. “During the relay races, it didn’t matter if one was an Arab or a Jew. They were all focusing on having fun and being a good teammate,” reflects Courtney.
Through the youth, parents and the community are also introduced to the Twinning phenomenon. Because of this, PeacePlayers not only impacts the youth, but the community at large. PeacePlayers encourages parents to attend and watch the Twinning so they too can see and become comfortable with the concept. Recently, we held our first Twinning of the season with Tamra and Nahriya teams and the parents responded very well to the Twinning after they saw their kids enjoying themselves in a safe and warm environment. With these special basketball practices, Arabs and Jews break yet another barrier. Generally, the Twinnings are held in the communities both teams come from. Meaning Jews are going to Arab communities and vice versa. This allows both to share where they play and introduce new areas to the youth.
In the past Twinnings have been a great success, and we hope this year will be no different. Aysha, a Palestinian member of the Leadership Development Program and a PeacePlayers coach, shares some of her hopes for this year’s Twinning season. “I hope that the kids grow the idea that peace is possible by taking the PeacePlayers route. I hope through twinnings the kids will open up to the idea that Jews and Arabs can live together without having the problems we face today. It’s important for the youth from both sides to have fun in the Twinning and to have a chance to get to know someone from the other side. Not just know them by name, but also know their culture and traditions. Through this, I hope they see the similarities they both share.” Seeing is believing with the Twinnings. Jews and Arabs are interacting face to face and this way they are altering age-old stereotypes, and breaking the cycle of fear all through basketball.