"There is no other context quite like this one; it's hard to understand without living it."These are the words of Karen Doubilet as she told the Laureus blog about the remarkable PeacePlayers International project in the Middle East (PPI-ME).
Karen was speaking ahead of a unique global summit, organised by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation to be held later this month, that will unite all Laureus funded projects from around the world for three days of networking, training, and knowledge sharing. The event will be attended by Laureus Academy Members, Laureus staff, and leaders of 89 ground breaking Laureus projects from 32 nations.
One of these projects is PPI-ME where Karen Doubilet is Managing Director. And, before the summit takes place, the Laureus blog was keen to take a closer look at the work that goes on at the project itself.
When suggesting it might be hard to understand, she was referring to one of the primary social problems the project tackles: the distrust and fear that exist between young Israeli and Palestinian children following years of continuing conflict in the region.
An inability to come to a peaceful solution defines top level politics and trickles down to the very base level of relations between families and communities of different backgrounds.
It's this environment that children from both backgrounds are brought up in. And, at this point, you would be forgiven for thinking social division might be inevitable.
Working to combat such tension between communities, PPI-ME brings children from both backgrounds together, far removed from the divided social life they have been brought up in, onto the safe zone of the basketball court.
So far PPI-ME has helped bring over 5,500 Israeli and Palestinian children together. In doing so, they've not only helped teach them how meaningless the prejudices they previously held really are, but also how to consider people from the other community as close as family.
Two such children who learnt to overcome their prejudices are David Abozan (below), 19, and Khaled Sabah, 20.
David, a Jewish immigrant, was living in a poverty stricken Jerusalem suburb. Khaled (below), a Palestinian, was from a tough East Jerusalem neighbourhood. Both joined PPI-ME at the same time in 2005, early in the project's history.
They were first introduced to each other during one of the project's 'twinning' exercises.
A 'twinning' is what PPI calls the process of bringing one of their teams from a Jewish area together with another team from a Palestinian area.
But Khaled admits to certain concerns ahead of his first meeting with the Palestinian team:
"There were some fears, it took time for people to get comfortable with the situation, to get to know one another."
Talking about his feelings from the time, Khaled said;
"People take what they hear from other people or the news and they project it on [to the other side]."
"I never saw myself as an Arab and [them] as Jewish. We were all basketball players."
"It's not just that the two groups benefit from sharing a common goal...it's more than this.
"Before the project, the children thought of the "other" side with fear and suspicion. Now they see each other as teammates and friends."
The project's effect on David sounds remarkably, and encouragingly, similar.
"I used to judge people on what I saw on the outside," he said, reflecting on his behaviour before taking part in the project. "Now I look on the inside first...I learned that we are the same."
The success of the project stems from the lasting impression a simple game of basketball has on the players.
The game may only last a short while, but, for those taking part, the experience of having their preconceptions questioned lasts a great deal longer, even for a lifetime.
Showing how true this can be is in how David and Khaled are now best friends.
In the future, meanwhile, Khaled is planning on staying with PPI-ME as a coach himself.
David will soon be leaving home for preparatory training for his mandatory enlistment in the Israeli Defense Force.
He hopes to return to the project whenever leave allows it.
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