Something special is happening right now in Israel.
As I write this, two hundred Israeli and Palestinian youth have converged on a summer camp in the north of Israel, where they are learning – together – the sport of Ultimate. This is Ultimate Peace, a non-profit organization in its fourth year. There are many organizations out there that use sports to bring communities together, but Ultimate Peace is the only one that uses the sport we love. As you can imagine, Ultimate’s emphasis on mutual respect between opponents works perfectly here: the kids are buying into Spirit of the Game and, relatedly, relationships are forming between children that would have never otherwise met.
If you’d heard of Ultimate Peace before, it’s worth checking out the website to see how much the program has changed. In four short years, Ultimate Peace has evolved from a one-day experiment to a year-round experience that reaches hundreds of kids. Former campers now act as coaches when camp ends, working with our kids throughout the year. This year, the Israeli boys and girls teams competing in Ireland at the 2012 World Youth Ultimate Championships will feature Arab players who first learned to play at Ultimate Peace camps. The Israeli Ministry of Sport included Ultimate on its list of officially recognized sports after witnessing what happens at camp. And, excitingly, Ultimate Peace is expanding its mission of bringing divided groups together through Ultimate to other countries: this year marked the first year in Colombia, with more countries to come.
In the end, the greatest success of Ultimate Peace is how it enables relationships. It will not resolve the conflict in the Middle East alone, but it is having an undeniable impact on hundreds of children who will grow up to be leaders in their community. Take a look at this blog post from a week ago, or this one, to see what I mean. When the camp ends, these kids continue to communicate – across political and cultural divides – with their teammates from summer camp. In the words of Hannan, a 15-year old Arab girl, “To be honest, before the camp I was like most of the Arabs kids – shy and not confident and strange when it comes to facing Jews. I thought they don’t like us and I never really tried to talk and get along with them. I was living in a country that is divided into two different worlds-Arabs and Jews. However, starting the first camp was a turning point! My two divided worlds became one connected and more like one family. UP has changed me 100% and I’m really thankful for every moment I spent there. What I felt different about this camp is that they give you all the confidence that you need in yourself to achieve anything… When you’re in Ultimate Peace, you’re a family member!
This is, of course, a request for your financial support. Ultimate Peace’s successes haven’t come cheaply – the summer program’s budget is roughly $200,000, meaning it costs roughly $1000 per camper – and everyone involved with the program is a volunteer. It is very much a grass-roots program, in the sense that it requires the support of its community to survive and grow…and that’s where you come in.
If you are interested in and able to support this program, you can do so here; every little bit helps. Donations are tax-deductible, and can be made by credit card, PayPal or check. Thank you so much for your consideration.
Feature photo by Rachel Cerrotti