Yalla-Bye: An Introduction

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This week’s blog post is written by International Fellow James Levine on how he can’t wait to play Yalla-Bye upon his return from the US

Hello and happy 2017 to our From-the-Field readers! I just returned to Jerusalem after spending the holidays in the US and am just starting to process everything that has happened over the past few weeks.

In short, the past few weeks have been amazing. In mid-December, I went to Bethlehem with a few other coaches from PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) to see the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. While there we ate unbelievable knafeh – a traditional Middle Eastern cheese pastry soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup. Then I boarded a plane bound for Boston, Massachusetts where I was bombarded with questions from family and friends about Jerusalem, PPI – ME, and my life abroad.

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PPI-ME coaches Khaled and Odai mean-mugging at Jesus’ birthplace

The most common question I received was what I like about Jerusalem. I didn’t have just one answer. Sometimes I would talk about how I love coaching younger kids and seeing them improve so quickly. Other times I would say that I enjoy learning and living in a place that is so different than anywhere I have ever been before.

The truth, however, is that the thing I missed most was a game we play at PPI – ME called “Yalla-Bye”! Yalla-Bye is, arguably, the most intense, non-basketball related activity we do at PPI – ME. Yalla-Bye is more than a game, it’s a way of life. To play one must be patient, agile, and possess nerves of steel. Yalla-Bye is only meant to be played by those who are fearless and unafraid to be pegged by a basketball.

The game is simple. At the end of practice our players stand in a circle with their arms by their sides. A coach – usually LaToya, because she is the Yalla-Bye specialist – stands in the middle of the circle with a basketball. The coach then either passes the ball to a player or fakes a pass to a player. If the coach makes a pass, the player must catch the ball. If the coach fakes a pass, then the player to whom she has faked the pass must resist the urge to put her hand up to catch the pass.

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Yalla-Bye in action. Watch out!

The kids who are most afraid of the ball usually get out quickly trying to protect themselves from fake passes. The most adept Yalla-Bye players are impossible to get out – they are seemingly unafraid of a ball coming straight at their heads!

I missed the intensity, the passion, and our 3rd and 4th graders’ technical mastery of Yalla-Bye. And now that I’m back, I can’t wait to play!

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