Gathered in the ticketing area of the Tel Aviv airport, participants in Ultimate Peace’s Coach in Training Program don their dark purple Five Ultimate jerseys and are assigned a number. Once everyone has one, the group counts sequentially, the final numeral preceded with “and last!”
That’s how this diverse group of young people began their international trek to share how Ultimate Peace is building bridges using the simple tool of ultimate.
Ultimate Peace is a multicultural, socio-educational program that builds bridges of friendship, trust, and leadership through ultimate. A group of 20 Middle Eastern youth leaders toured the USA this spring on Ultimate Peace’s annual Friendship Tour. Between March 24th and April 4th, Arab Israeli, Jewish Israeli, and Palestinian teens shared their experiences and insights as emerging leaders who are using the sport of ultimate to forge relationships in their politically tumultuous region.
These 20 purple-jersey-wearing teens represent 20 unique religious, ethnic, and social backgrounds. Delegates on the Friendship Tour were participants and alumni of Ultimate Peace’s prestigious three-year leadership program. Every Ultimate Peace CIT has a unique story, and both the program and the Friendship Tour in particular offered them an opportunity to share.
On a quiet night during the Tour, a conversation between Arab and Jewish CITs turned toward politics. And though the boys found disagreements between them and the discussion stretched late into the evening, they said good night by hugging and comforting each other, as best friends and family should do.
“After I got into ultimate four years ago, it taught me you have to communicate, talk with each other so you can deal with problems,” says Hiba Massalha from Daburiya. “It also helps you to be friends. Ultimate Peace’s values–they are my life values. So I found myself in Ultimate Peace. So I can say ‘Ultimate Peace is me.’”
The Friendship Tour arrived in Atlanta on Tuesday, March 24 and Washington, DC on Tuesday, March 31. Teens conducted presentations and exchanges at schools, institutions, and places of worship. They also competed in a prestigious youth ultimate tournament and visited key American educational and historical sites.
WD Mohamed Schools of Atlanta hosted Ultimate Peace for the 2015 Tour’s first school visit. After participating in a class, a luncheon, and afternoon prayer, Ultimate Peace joined Mohamed School students for a practice and scrimmage.
“I’m still hearing from the students how awesome the CITs were, how open and friendly they were and how much fun they had,” said Ayah Rashid, a senior at the WD Mohamed Schools of Atlanta. “Please give our WD love to the rest of the CITs and Ultimate Peace staff–we all hope to see you next year!”
Gathered at the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Metro Station just outside of DC, CITs start their long journey home. They count off for the last time as a full group. Completing the numbering up to 20, these young leaders vow not to make this “the last”–not the last time Ultimate Peace visits friends in the United States.