#1 Rule: Love of the Game, and Everyone Who Plays it
At the risk of sounding cliché, my time with Ultimate Peace has been one of the most life changing, perspective shifting, community creating, and amazing experience of my life. I first contacted the UP fellow who has now been here for two years, told him about my camp counselor and Ultimate Frisbee playing background and we met up in Jerusalem before I started my semester at the University of Haifa. It took a while for me to finally get my schedule together enough to go to my first practice, but I finally did on a Thursday. I took a bus out to Yokeneam Illit where I was picked up by a full car of coaches I hadn’t met and we headed to Yesod HaMa’ala where we would coach two practices during the school day for the kids there. From Yesod we headed to Tuba-Zangariya where we had one larger practice after school for the kids in that community.
The communities are very different, other than the first is Jewish and the second is Arab, the personalities of the kids are very different as well. The next day I was paired with one of the coaches I met that Thursday to coach at a tournament that all the communities brought kids to. This coach who I was paired with has become one of my closest friend in UP, and is the first Arab friend that I have made. As time continued I became a regular coach at these Thursday practices, and added in Sundays at Tamra, and Mondays at Daburiyya. Tamra and Daburiyya are both Arab communities, and for the first time in my life I was spending extended periods of time in Arab communities. Meeting Arab people, playing with Arab kids, eating at Arab restaurants, this phenomenon in the life of this Jewish-Israeli quickly became normal. Not a week took place where I wasn’t itching to go back to each place that I coached at to hang out with the kids some more, learn some new Arabic and continue fostering the connections I was making.
Several months later the kids at every practice knew my name, and I tried to know as many of theirs as possible, but every practice started with high fives and hugs and ended much the same way. Not only do I feel like I really got to be a fun coach for all of the kids over the past few months but I also feel like I became friends with many of the older ones. In the end of the year tournament, I again was paired with my best friend to coach a team. At the tournament were almost all of the kids that I had been coaching since February and it was all smiles, and a little sadness by me because I know that I will not be coaching them next year since I will be back in the United States. The hardest part of the tournament for me was all of the kids asking me if I would be at camp this summer and me having to say no, and then their shock and wonder why I wouldn’t be there and their disappointment that this was the end of our journey together.
Ultimate Peace has made such an impact on my life that I do not intend to be done with it when I return to the United States. I have made it my goal to try and plan for the LIT tour to come to Baltimore next year, meaning that I will be working with the community to create a tournament for the LITs, find housing for them all, and plan an amazing week for them. If I am unsuccessful in that, I promised the LITs that I would come to wherever the tour does go to next year. The tournaments and practices are now over, and I have many pictures and new Facebook friends. Ultimate Peace will always hold a piece of my heart, and I will never forget any part of this experience. The icing on the cake this semester was that I was getting school credit for being a part of UP, and spending every day doing what I love with some of the most amazing people in the world.