Coming off of summer vacation, 52 Palestinian and Israeli PeacePlayers came together at Kibbutz Sdot Yam in Israel for two parallel retreats that officially got the new program year underway! Each retreat focused on different PeacePlayers groups. The first retreat was for members of the Leadership Development Program, which grooms Palestinian and Israeli youth to become the future leaders of the program and ambassadors of peace in their communities; the second retreat engaged Palestinian and Israeli boys and girls, ages 8-12 from East Jerusalem and around Israel and the West Bank.
One of the main goals of the retreats was to give new participants from both the LDP and
the youth teams a chance to get to know one another and to build team spirit. This year, the LDP includes a whole new cohort of younger youth, while LDP graduates have gone on to become “youth mentors” to help guide younger youth leaders. The younger group, which for the most part was made up of new participants, played several ice breaker games and took part in basketball drills and relay races, which encouraged cooperation and physical contact between Palestinian and Israeli children.
Although the two parallel retreats mostly operated separate from one another, the presence of the LDP, provided a great opportunity, especially for new West Bank participants, who had never met Israelis before joining the program, to see first-hand how normal and positive friendship between both sides can be.
To bring this point home, on Saturday, there was a joint activity with both LDP and the younger group. The LDP youth were divided into groups of three who worked together to design activity stations for the younger participants; while younger participants rotated between activity stations, During this time the LDP youth mentors went around offering younger LDP feedback about their activities and coaching, and engagement with the younger group of boys and girls. It has been incredible to see the growth of our LDP youth mentors, and the impact they were able to have on not only the younger participants, but the organization of PeacePlayers as well!