Today’s blog is written by PeacePlayers International Mitzvah supporter, Reed Lipman. Reed is a rising senior at Riverdale Country School in New York.
When I first started supporting PPI, I did not realize the profound effect it would have on my life. My name is Reed Lipman and I have been involved with PPI since my Bar Mitzvah, when I asked my friends and family to donate money to PPI in lieu of gifts. I knew that this was a “nice” thing to do — mostly because everyone told me that it was generous to give my gifts to a charity. But really, what did I know? I was 12 years old, living a sheltered life in suburban New York.
Later that year, I began to understand. I took a trip to Israel and spent some time with PPI where I hung out with Jewish and Arab young female basketball players.
These young women would never have met if they didn’t play in PPI’s mixed basketball league. Off the court, they came from different backgrounds, practiced different religions and lived in communities that didn’t interact. But on the court, these girls were teammates and much more. I began to see that the friendships and bonds being formed through basketball is what PPI is all about.
After this first trip to the Middle East, I wanted to continue to support PPI. Living in New York, I knew I could best support by fundraising and creating awareness, so I organized two parent-child golf tournaments that were both successful and a lot of fun.
In the summer of 2014, I traveled again to PPI in Israel hoping to touch base with the kids and the people who ran the program. Now a junior in high school, I helped run a twinning between a Jewish and Arab school and was an assistant coach during practices for one of PPI’s boy’s teams.. During the visit, I met Khaled Zaki, who joined PPI when he was a young man and has since graduated from PPI’s Leadership Development Program (9 years later!). Talking about our love of basketball, our schools and our friends, I realized we had a lot more in common than I ever thought we would. But Khaled also told me about the dangerous neighborhood he was from and about the conflict between the Jewish and Arab people in his area. It was eye-opening that someone so close to my age was so aware of political conflict and the dividing lines between communities of people who live next to one another.
Last year, the tables were turned when Khaled and 30 of PPI’s young leaders came to Washington, D.C. and New York during a US State Department cultural exchange. During their trip, I organized a basketball clinic and then invited the whole group over to my house to hang out, play games, and eat dinner. It was so much fun having them at my house playing ping-pong, air hockey, XBOX and listening to music. We all realized that even though we come from such different places, we have the same interests and talk about the same things.
What started out as a Bar Mitzvah project has turned into an experience that has opened up my mind to different cultures, social conflict and how kids everywhere can unite through simple things such as sports. I am grateful for the experience I have had with PPI and I am excited to carry on the relationships I have developed with PPI’s players and coaches in the Middle East. I hope other kids take the time to get involved with PeacePlayers and get to know some of the children whose lives have been changed simply because they were given the chance to play basketball.
To find out how you can get involved with PeacePlayers International CLICK HERE!