Pickleball Magazine 2-6 - Page 59

Campers from Israel and Southeast India. were hard fought between teams from the U.S. and Middle East. It was here that I watched a Muslim Egyptian high-fiving his Jewish Israeli teammate after every point. It didn’t matter who won—what mattered was watching excited kids from opposite sides of conflict coming together as one pickleball team on the court. The counselors loved the game and played against Robin and me in some friendly challenge matches. Camp counselor Orlando was now hooked, planning to take pickleball back to Jerusalem. “This camp is a country by its own… and pickleball is one of the most important departments that brings joy and happiness to its campers and staff. When pickleball came to this camp, everyone became part of it because the game itself created a peaceful atmosphere between campers. Everyone wanted to play because it is fun and easy to learn. Before, Free Time was the only time campers walked around looking for something to do. Now, as soon as the Free Time bell is rung, the campers run to the pickleball courts,” said Elias Khatib, Seeds of Peace Athletic Director, 2017. After a year, we heard that pickleball had been a big hit and the overgrown tennis courts had been resurfaced with painted lines for pickleball. “Pickleball has changed the culture of this camp. There are campers who do not come from athletic backgrounds, but they choose to go to the pickleball courts during Free Time because it is easy to learn. It starts by just batting the ball around and eventually goes to forming friendships with kids who otherwise would not have met,” said Romeo. After the pickleball sessions, we attended the daily camp assembly where we witnessed a somber reminder of the world outside camp. News had spread of fresh Israeli- Palestinian violence. How quickly the playful laughter dissolved into tears and sorrow as these kids huddled together in comfort. “Pickleball helped a lot of these campers forget about their differences and has given them peace here even for a short moment. My hope is to bring this game to Jerusalem so we can erase some of the animosity,” said Khatib. At Seeds of Peace, pickleball is not just a game but has been a gamechanger with international ramifications. It has helped develop future peace leaders from conflict countries throughout the world, who take back to their native country lessons of friendships across borders, team building, communication through dialogue, speaking from the heart, and building trust. Can we dare to imagine a magical world of peace without difference, conflicts or borders? Pickle on for Peace!!! Special Thanks: In addition to Dick, Elias and Orlando, I would also like to thank the following individuals for their assistance: Eric Kapenga (Seeds of Peace Camp Communication Director), Bobbie Gottschalk (Seeds of Peace Photographer), Zach Scheller (Onix Sports).  • Camp Athletic Director Elias Khatib (Jerusalem), Camp Dialogue Counselor Dick Romeo (Villages, FL), USAPA Atlantic Region Asst. Regional Director Linda Einsiedler (Falmouth, ME), Camp Counselor Orlando (Jerusalem). NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 | MAGAZINE 57