PeacePlayers Middle East was thrilled to host the 2019 Middle East Friendship Games from July 21-25 at Kibbutz Sdot Yam on the Mediterranean coast. With gratitude owed to the Peskowitz Family, the Arison Family and the US Embassy in Israel, 50 Palestinian and Israeli youth, ages 10-17, from Jerusalem and Northern Israel, came together for five fun-filled days of basketball training and competition, conflict transformation workshops and leadership training. The Middle East games were a part of a series of events taking place at PeacePlayers sites around the world during the summer of 2019 and will serve as a precursor to the first annual Global Friendship Games, scheduled to take place in Israel in the summer of 2020.
Within the framework of the Middle East Games, youth participants had the opportunity to learn from world renowned trainers and coaches including: Dr. Chad Ford (Professor of Peacebuilding at BYU Hawaii); Amanda Ford (Professor at the Intercultural Studies department BYU Hawaii and certified Yoga teacher); Rae Lin D’Allie (Italian 3×3 Gold medalist), Brandyn Akana (Former NCAA Coach), Vito Gilic (former National Team Coach), George Felton and Claudio Crippa (scouts from the NBA San Antonio Spurs).
Basketball activities included individual and group work outs with renowned coaches, a 3×3 and 5×5 tournament, as well as a scrimmage with the Under 14 Israeli National team. Off-the-court activities – which incorporated PeacePlayers core values, Seeing People as People; Inside Out transformation; and Culture of Collaboration – included: yoga, mindfulness and martial arts; a motivational talk given by San Antonio Spurs scouts, who shared the importance of being well-rounded athletes with exceptional basketball skills, but also with integrity and with impeccable character; as well as workshops in coaching, facilitation and public speaking.
As part of their hands-on training, veteran participants had the chance to lead the junior participants through the peace education and coaching curriculum, serving as role models for the next generation of PeacePlayers. The youth also had the opportunity to practice their public speaking while making presentations for a distinguished group of visitors from the US Embassy, including Cultural Program Specialist, Omer Benziony, US Embassy’s Cultural Attaché Elizabeth Fritschle, and other renowned representatives.