This week’s blog comes from PeacePlayers International (PPI) chairman emeritus and legendary sports agent, Ron Shapiro. In a recent interview with WBAL 1090 Radio’s Brett Hollander, Ron shared his experiences with PPI, what he witnessed during his trip to the Middle East, and how PPI-ME is helping to bridge the divide between Israelis and Palestinians. Click here to listen to the full interview!
Last week PPI-ME hosted a visit for 30 friends and supporters from the United States, including Ron Shapiro, PPI board chairman emeritus and founder of the Shapiro Negotiations Institute, for a week of basketball with our kids, geopolitical tours to help contextualize our work and lots of traditional feasts along the way!
Brett: You have just returned from your trip to the Middle East, Explain to us what PeacePlayers is all about.
Ron: “Simply put, it’s an organization that uses sport, to build bridges in areas of conflict. We started in South Africa, we then went to Northern Ireland and Cyprus, and we are still in those places. When we went to the Middle East in 2006, our challenge was to find a way to build bridges between Arab and Jewish kids who might otherwise fight with each other, and the result has been inspirational! What we have done, is use the game of basketball, to give these kids the opportunity to get on the court together at a young age and play on mixed teams, allowing them to become friends. I have been around long enough to see the fruits of this work, and that is what PeacePlayers is all about!
Brett: When kids are told from such a young age that one side is good, one side is bad, and there is a hard line there; How do you break that down?
We try to work with with participants from a very young age, and allow them to experience and learn the sport of basketball. We put them in to activities, more than just games, activities where they are having fun, passing the ball back and forth to each other, learning each others names, laughing and just being kids together, and then we blend them on to mixed teams. An example of the success of this process is with our girls, who won the 17 and under Israeli championship the last year, the only mixed team in the history of Israel to do so! This was a real break through, and furthermore, one of the girls on the team is an Artist who recently had an art exhibit of paintings she did of basketball play. I was showing one of the members of our office today a picture, and the picture was of her Arab and Jewish teammates who were there helping her set up for it, which is exciting because you want it to range past the game and in to their lives.
With conflict, no one wants to acknowledge that peace is possible! You have to build from the bottom up, and hope that you find a way for peace. What PeacePlayers is doing is allowing kids the opportunity to play together, which allows them to learn that they can live together, which is what we are trying to do all around the world!