This week’s blog was written by Noy Bachar, and 18-year-old Jewish Israeli girl from Jerusalem who has been an active part of PeacePlayers for nearly seven years. A longtime member of the Leadership Development Program and the All-Stars league teams, Noy wrote this blog just days before being conscripted for mandatory service in the Israeli military.
My name is Noy, and this is my story.
Joining the world of basketball at age 12 also signaled for me the beginning of my experience with PeacePlayers. At the beginning, the joint practices [with Arab players] had me really scared. I had no idea how to communicate or to start a conversation with the girls. And, of course, we didn’t speak the same language. At that time, my way of thinking was totally different than who I am and what I think today. I had all of the stigmas that people have when they are unaware and label people straight away.
In the beginning, my parents also warned me that it was “dangerous” [to play together with Arabs]. My parents didn’t believe that there would be peace. But today, I can tell you that my family and I have changed. As I became involved in the organization, my parents also began to believe and understand that there is a way for Jews and Arabs to grow together in the Middle East.
The thing that really got me connected was basketball. It’s the eye contact between us during a pass, the final assist at the end of a game, the “chief” who empowers and encourages us. It’s bringing it in at the end of a championship game and shouting together with all our might “We are… PEACEPLAYERS!”
It’s the feeling of winning… together!
In the beginning, I was even afraid and embarrassed of what people would say about me playing with Arabs and that I’m part of a peace organization. At school, I was afraid to raise my hand in class and to say what I really thought during political discussions.
With time, I learned that I was mistaken… majorly! I stopped seeking other people’s opinions, and I started to believe in my beliefs and my path. In 12th grade, in my last year of school, when we had political discussions, I raised my hand and said what I thought, and it didn’t matter to me what other people would say. What was important to me was to open my classmates’ eyes so that they wouldn’t say things without really knowing what they were talking about.
And now for the more personal part. In a few days, I will enter the Israeli army for my mandatory military service. As such, I’m going to be part of something that is a little different, actually more like the complete opposite of what I am doing in PeacePlayers. At this opportunity, I want to say that I will do everything I can to change, even a little bit, the way people see [the other side].
I don’t really have the words to explain the crazy emotions I am feeling right now. I don’t think I can describe in words the love I have for PeacePlayers and especially for the girls whom I have been with for nearly seven years. To stop, suddenly for two years is hard for me, and I am actually tearing up right now as I write this blog, because I could never find anything that could take PeacePlayers and my friends’ place.
At one of the PeacePlayers weekend retreats that we had, I went to Aysha’s (an Arab friend from Beit Safafa) room, and we sat on the balcony and I told her about my fears about the army and how hard it is to leave the organization. I asked her how she sees the situation from her perspective. That was a conversation that I will never forget. I told her it was for two years, and I just found myself crying on her shoulder. And she’s the one who calmed me down and said “Everything’s ok.”
To conclude, I just have one sentence to say to my friends from the PeacePlayers Leadership Development Program (LDP): I hope that one day, this small group can make big changes. If we only continue on this path, it doesn’t matter who will try to break us. We’re together and that’s what’s important.
Because we can only win when we’re together, and not only in basketball, but in everything. Just believe and stay together!
So, for the last time: We are… PEACEPLAYERS!