Youth Entrepreneurship Program Is Up and Running!

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Some of the participants of Peacestagram, one of the Youth Entrepreneurship Program initiatives, after attending a photography exhibit together

In November 2015, PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) announced two new programs (view original post here). One of these is the Youth Entrepreneurship Program (YEP), in which six graduates of the Leadership Development Program work in mixed Palestinian and Israeli pairs to create their own peace building initiatives. Here’s an update on the progress of the program.

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An Israeli and Palestinian participant from GGG

The first year of YEP was spent arming participants with the tools to create and successfully run a peace organization. Participants attended lectures about grant writing and budget-making, and presented their ideas in front of a panel modeled on the show “Shark Tank,” where they requested money to fund their initiative. Thinking through the logistics of creating a new organization was challenging and, at times, intimidating for YEP participants. One of the Palestinian participants, Duha, says she felt uneasy because her project used a medium she had little experience with: art. This is the first time any of the participants have been involved in starting an organization and they wanted their projects to be unique. With the help of mentors and Project Manager, Jamie Walsh, the participants created three special projects.

Duha (Palestinian) and Liraz (Israeli) created Girls Gone Green (GGG), an initiative that brings together Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls in Jerusalem through art. The participants tell stories about their cultures, families and other topics through traditional art forms, such as pottery and painting, as well as using gathered recycled material. The participants will display their creations at an exhibit the girls will host for friends and family.

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The first Peacestagram meeting

Participants Aysha (Palestinian) and Neta (Israeli) created Peacestagram, an initiative that brings together Palestinian and Israeli teenage girls in Jerusalem through photography. The participants will learn different photography techniques with the goal of producing high quality photos covering topics such as religion, food, sports and other personal issues. The participants will display their work on social media and in an exhibit this spring.

The last initiative was created by participants Ibrahim (Palestinian) and Ofir (Israeli). They will host an event this spring that pairs able-bodied kids with kids with disabilities for a sports activity in Jerusalem. While interaction between Palestinians and Israelis in often limited, there is an even larger gap when it comes to interaction between Palestinians and Israelis with disabilities.

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Traditional Moroccan slipper key chains made by GGG participants

Implementation of the three YEP initiatives has just started and is going well. The participants of Peacestagram have already taken a trip to a photography exhibit and the participants of GGG have started tapping into their creativity by making traditional Moroccan slipper key chains. Stay tuned for more updates as these initiatives progress!

Coach’s Corner: Interview with Dor Dayan

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Coach Dor Dayan has shown incredible commitment and passion working with PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) over the past two years

 

This week’s PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) blog post is about 27-year-old Israeli coach Dor Dayan. Dayan played basketball in the top professional league in Israel, before deciding to become a coach five years ago. He has been working with PPI – ME for the past two seasons and is the head coach of two of our mixed (Arab and Jewish) All-Star teams in Northern Israel. Here Dor talks about his experience as a coach and the impact that PeacePlayers has had on him.

 

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Dor speaking with the girls during a timeout in their win against Iblin

How did you get into coaching?

My mother encouraged me to become a coach. She thought I would really be good at it. At first I just did it for fun, but then I loved it so much that I wanted to do it professionally as a full time job.

Is there a coach that you look up to or that has influenced how you view the game and your own coaching?

David Blatt (Former coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers) because he is very intelligent, knows the game very well, and knows how to speak with his players.

What is your favorite team to watch?

In Israel, it’s Maccabi Tel Aviv (former team that David Blatt coached – the most popular team in Israel). In America, it was the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan played on the team and now it is the Golden State Warriors.

How are your teams doing so far this season?

This season is going really well so far. I think the All-Star Yeladot team (14-and-under mixed team) will continue to get better. Our team is successful when we play aggressively and together as a team. The All-Star Naharot team (16-and-under mixed team) is also doing really well. We are 11-0 in the league and we can only hope that this will continue for the rest of the season.

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Dayan pushing the girls during a pre-season beach workout in Nahariya

 How did you find out about PPI – ME?

I learned about PPI – ME from another basketball coach in Nahariya. I saw the Arab and Jewish girls playing together and it seemed like something I would be interested in. The next season the chairman of our club informed me that I would be coaching two PPI – ME teams and so far, I am really enjoying it.

How has PPI – ME impacted you?

I am now able to see the other side of the conflict. I think we can live together, but there is still a lot to work on. I think if Arabs and Jews spend time together from a young age, as they do with PPI – ME, that it would really help them as they become adults. I sincerely hope that the girls can build a connection with one another. I think that if our teams can continue to play together it will really help them in the future.

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Dayan (second from the right), the Nahariya Naharot players and other PPI – ME Staff after a team win

What is the most important thing you have gained from your experience with PPI – ME?

The project has given me a broader perspective on the Middle East conflict and has shown me that not everyone from “the other side” is a bad person. Through PPI – ME, I have met great people and built relationships and connections that I never would have made otherwise. It has also given me the opportunity to coach a group of girls and hopefully have a positive impact on their lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Older and Younger Participants Learn From Each Other at Overnight Retreat

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The entire group after a fun retreat

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Two participants working hard at the dribbling station

On December 16-17, PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) held an overnight retreat at Kibbutz Sdot Yam near Caesarea, where participants from the West Bank, the Friday basketball clinics and the Leadership Development Program (LDP) came together for a weekend of basketball and other activities designed to build trust. Approximately 60 participants attended the retreat, ranging in age from 9-17 years old. Participants were divided into two groups by age: the younger participants from the Friday basketball clinics and the West Bank made up one group and the LDP participants made up a second group. The younger group activities were primarily led by American Fellows Courtney Douglass, LaToya Fisher and James Levine, with the help of local coaches, while Heni Bizawi led the LDP activities.

Here’s a recap of the weekend’s activities. On Friday, the younger participants had two sessions, each with a very different focus. The purpose of the first session was for participants to get to know each other and learn to work together. These activities were light on basketball and heavy on fun; they generated a lot of laughter and really loosened up the group.

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LDP participants leading drills with younger participants

The theme of the second session was trust. Participants worked in small groups of four and each group was given an object that was placed somewhere in the gym and had to be retrieved. The catch was that the person designated to retrieve the object would be blindfolded and the rest of their team could only guide that person through verbal directions. The best part about this activity was watching the Jewish participants trying to understand directions in Arabic and the Arab participants trying to understand directions in Hebrew – and trying to teach each other in the process.

The LDP participants spent part of the day Friday in the classroom learning about coaching techniques and preparing drills they would run with the younger participants on Saturday. After finishing up in the classroom, the LDP had a basketball practice with coach Rebecca Ross. It was a tough but fun practice and showed them how a veteran coach leads.

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LDP participant Malak helping a younger participant

On Saturday, the LDP participants ran drills with the younger participants. The LDP did an excellent job at coming up with fun and creative drills, and the younger participants loved it. After each activity was completed, LDP participants were given feedback in real time so they could try to implement it when they worked with the next group of young participants.

The weekend was short and sweet but fun and memorable as always!

Monday Mornings at PPI-ME

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Coach Rifka Ross and American Fellow LaToya Fisher start practice with the girls at Ein Karem

This week’s PPI-ME blog is written by American Fellow James Levine.

A few days ago, I woke up and realized I didn’t know what day of the week it was. After checking my phone, I learned it was Monday. Around the world, most people (understandably) don’t like Monday mornings. Mondays mean that the weekend is over, and the work week is beginning. For those who don’t think their work is particularly fun, I sympathize with you.

Monday mornings at PPI – ME are a little different. First, the Israeli work week starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday, so Monday here is more like Tuesday. Also, unlike most people, we get to wake up and coach basketball, which is pretty incredible. So, for readers of “From the Field” who need a little respite from Monday mornings, I hope you can live vicariously through me.

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The beautiful views from Ein Karem

We start Mondays at Ein Karem, a school nestled in the mountains outside of Jerusalem, where we have an all-girls team. The girls start their Sunday and Monday mornings with basketball practice at 8:20 a.m. Now, I’m not an authority on education, but I think first-period basketball is a great addition to any middle school curriculum. Before practice starts, I usually chat with one of our players, Noam, who teaches me bits and pieces of Hebrew, while laughing at me. Recently she has been pressuring me to download Duolingo and swears I’ll learn the language if I try it.

Despite the early start time, practices at Ein Karem are high-energy. Rifka Ross, the team’s head coach, always comes prepared with creative, fun and challenging drills. The girls do dribble series around cones, work on footwork and finish with hoops. Recently, they have started playing 4-on-4 live and they are incredibly competitive. During shooting drills, finishing drills and races, the girls always give 100% and aren’t afraid to get physical. It’s not unusual to see girls diving on the ground or leaving practice proudly wearing battle wounds.

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A high-energy game of 4-on-4 to end practice!

We end practice with a universally-loved game called “Yalla-Bye” led by LaToya and the girls go off to their next class at 9:15 a.m. Monday mornings at Ein Karem are great because we have an amazing group of players, but to make things better, we have two practices at Keshet to look forward to in the afternoon!

Player Profile: Full Court Press with Yarden Salem

In today’s blog post, American Fellow, Courtney Douglass interviewed PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI – ME) participant, Yarden, who plays on the Nahariya Naharot 16-and-under mixed (Jewish and Arab) All-Stars team about her experience with PPI – ME.

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Yarden (left) with her teammates and American Fellow Courtney

Yarden, tell us a little bit about yourself:

I’m 15 years old and am from a kibbutz (communal-style village in Israel) called Gesher Haziv located outside of Nahariya. I have been playing basketball for eight years and this is my fourth year with PeacePlayers. I currently play on the Nahariya Naharot 16-and-under mixed (Jewish and Arab) All-Stars team. Two of my favorite things to do outside of basketball are playing the piano and drawing.

How has your season been going so far on the Nahariya/Tamra All-Stars?

So far everything is going really well. Everyone is getting along and we have been working very hard together. Our team is currently undefeated and in first place in the league. We have made really good progress and I think the bonding is getting better the longer that we have been in PeacePlayers.

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Yarden (#55) soaring over opponents to snag an offensive rebound

How did you first find out about PeacePlayers?

I really didn’t know much about it until my coach at the time told our team we were going to play with a team of Arab girls in special practices called “Twinnings.” The first couple of years my team from Nahariya met for Twinnings with a team from Tamra. Now we have progressed to being on a mixed All-Star Team together.

How has PeacePlayers impacted you?

When I was growing up my parents never said anything bad about Arabs, so I never thought anything bad about them, but I also didn’t have much interaction with them. PeacePlayers has given me a chance to learn more about “the other side.” I see my Arab teammates as regular people who want to play basketball just like I do. I believe that it’s all about doing what you love.

What is the most important thing you have taken away from your experience being a part of PeacePlayers?

There are so many kids in the world who want to play basketball but are not able to. So, I really appreciate the fact that I can play basketball and my parents and friends support me doing something I love so much. I feel like our team is a family. When we are on the court our differences don’t matter. All that matters is that we want the same thing – to win as a family.

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Nahariya Naharot All-Star team huddling after a victory

Rapid Fire Questions

If you could meet any person dead or alive, who would it be?

Michael Phelps

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Hawaii, Africa, Australia – too many to name one

What is your favorite food?

Kanafeh – Middle Eastern honey cake

What is your favorite artist or song right now?

Carry on my Wayward Son – Kansas

What is your favorite animal (besides dog or cat)?

Dolphins or elephants

 

 

 

Reflections of Hope: PPI-ME Visits Oklahoma City

In mid-November, PeacePlayers International (PPI) received the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum’s “Reflections of Hope Award” for the work it does abroad to bring divided communities together through basketball. PeacePlayers International – Middle East (PPI-ME) was fortunate enough to send two participants and a coach to the ceremony in Oklahoma City.

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Reflections of Hope co-chair Sam Presti (left) leads a panel discussion with PPI-ME participants Liraz and Malak, coach Rifka, and Co-Founder/Executive Director Brendan Tuohey. Photo courtesy of ktul.com.

This year’s Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum “Reflections of Hope Award” was presented to PPI on November 14, 2016. PPI-ME was fortunate enough to send two participants and teammates, Liraz (Jewish) and Malak (Arab), and their coach, Rifka (Jewish), to Oklahoma City to participate in the ceremony and share with the audience what PeacePlayers means to them. The award represents the beliefs of the Oklahoma National Memorial Foundation that hope can survive and blossom despite the tragedy and chaos of political violence, and that even in environments marred by such violence, peaceful, nonviolent approaches are best. These beliefs align seamlessly with PPI’s vision and mission and it was an honor to be recognized.

The trip consisted of many meetings, lots of amazing food (no PPI-ME trip is complete without a visit to Shake Shack!), sightseeing, and some NBA fun, but what made the trip was special for each PPI-ME attendee was unique.

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The ladies enjoying a nice meal

For Liraz, the trip was special because in addition to attending the awards ceremony, the girls had a chance to tour the museum and learn about the  1995 Oklahoma City bombing. The tour was quite emotional and different from any museum Liraz had visited before. When tragic events occur where many lives are lost, the public usually only hears about the number of casualties or certain stories that are brought to light. The memorial museum in Oklahoma City highlights every victim’s personal story. This made the museum highly memorable.

For coach Rifka, the trip was special because she got to see firsthand the magnitude of support that PPI has in the U.S. She also got to see her players in a new light. Rifka already knew that Liraz and Malak are both great players and people, but the trip allowed her to get to know them better. She got to hear her players speak about their lives in the Middle East and see them represent PPI. She was inspired by her players and will cherish the trip forever.

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PPI holding the award. Photo courtesy of Oklahoma City National Memorial  & Museum.

For Malak, the trip was special because she got to eat at Shake Shack again, which never gets old for many PPI-ME participants. She also found the museum tour emotional and inspiring because it was her first time learning about the Oklahoma City bombing. Other highlights for Malak were the conversations she had with Rifka and Liraz about the Middle East conflict and the opportunity to share her story with so many people who were interested to learn more about PPI.

Thank you to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum and the Oklahoma National Memorial Foundation for their wonderful hospitality and for honoring PPI with this year’s Reflections of Hope Award!

Cetin shares his thoughts on the PPI-ME exchange

This week’s blog by PPI-CY is written by Assistant Coach/long time participant Cetin about his experience on the PPI-ME exchange trip last month. 

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All Smiles!

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Brothers

Hi everyone, I am Cetin. I’m 20 years old and I’ve been in the program since it started in Cyprus. I have had many twinnings, camps and sessions that increase my quality of life for the better. I’ve played in PeacePlayers for 10 years, but for the last two camps I’ve been an assistant coach with my crazy sister Sophia. Today I would like to share my experiences about the Middle East trip, which is the one of the greatest memories that PeacePlayers provided me. (It was sad Sophia couldn’t come and we couldn’t give some strikeeeess!! for players.)

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My crazy friends

The Middle East trip was awesome and we had a great camp for five days. There were four groups –  Middle East, Norway, Northern Ireland and Cyprus. Each group had 12 players and three coaches. We stayed at a hotel in Israel for a week that had a great beach with an awesome sunset each day. All of the sessions were effective for players on and off the court. Many players had already met before at the first exchange camp in Cyprus. This camp was another chance for players to build strong bridges between them, which they achieved from my view.

 

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Exploring the Holy City

After five days of camp, we went to The Dead Sea which was crazy and incredible experience on salty water. Later that night we moved our hotel where we stayed in Jerusalem. We had a great time sightseeing in the old city and we learned some wonderful information about three religions in one city the ‘Holy City’.

The saddest thing was end of the camp. Everyone had some great experiences with their old friends and they made new friends, so it was hard to leave. There were some tears, but those tears are for our big FAMILY to have strong bonds with us. To sum up I would like to thank for PPI for this camp opportunity and other participants in camp which we had a unforgettable experiences in a week. Hope we will have more great experiences together in the future!!

 

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Such a great time with amazing people! Miss them all!