How PeacePlayers Shaped us as Teenagers

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Neta (back center) and Maayan (4th from back, right) at an LDP kickoff retreat 

Hi. We’re Neta and Maayan, and we’re 14 and 15 years old. We’re both from Jerusalem, from the Katamon neighborhood, and we’ve been playing with the ASA (Academic Sports Association) basketball club for two and a half years. We are also Orthodox Jews.

We joined PeacePlayers this year, and so many things have changed in us since we joined the organization – our approach, opinions, thoughts, and our understanding that we [Arabs and Jews] can live together. Joining PeacePlayers has helped build our personality, and has shaped us as teenagers. We have been lucky enough to get to know Arab culture, including traditions and language, on a deeper level, and also [our Arab friends] have been exposed to Jewish culture.

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Maayan & Neta volunteering at Kiach School for the hearing impaired

As part of our involvement, we were selected to join the Leadership Development Program (LDP), a project that educates for future leadership and creates community involvement. As part of the project, we commit to a number of volunteer hours in the community. At one of our monthly meetings, we split into two groups and each group decided on an important cause to volunteer for. Our group chose to visit the Kiach School. Kiach is a mixed Arab-Jewish school in Jerusalem for hearing and speech impaired children, ages 6-21. The purpose of this school is to help these young people become prepared for independent living. The school takes the curriculum of standard schools, and adapts it to the needs of those with hearing impairment who often face many other challenges. We planned the activity, and then one Friday about a month ago, all of us LDP went there.

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Neta playing on the 16-Under All Stars Jerusalem team

When we arrived, we got a chance to tour of the school. On the tour, we saw how the children are getting tools in many different fields: cooking, physics, computers, math, biology, carpentry, art and more. In some areas of study, the students even complete matriculation exams. In addition, we shopped at the kiosk that is run by the children, and ate lunch that was prepared by the “young cooks” at the school.

Afterwards, we ran basketball activities and different games and competitions for the kids at the school. It was heartwarming to see these children smiling, laughing and having fun. It’s moving to know that you have the ability to make someone smile, especially if he or she has a disability or impairment. This act of giving gives you a feeling of satisfaction, and makes us better people. This activity brought home the understanding that we have to be aware of our environments, and that we have to give something of ourselves to others. That was quite an experience and we really enjoyed it.

We think that PeacePlayers has a lot of importance, especially in Israel, where there are so many stigmas and divides between people from different groups. We got the chance to be a part of this organization and it’s allowed us to get exposed and to get connected to different populations where we live, and that is something significant and important. We hope that more people will get to know the organization that works to create peace, and that PeacePlayers will just keep on growing.

 

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