Peace Is Always in the Air

Peace Is Always in the Air

Being teammates crosses political and cultural lines for Shadda Daburri, 17, Yonatan Ben Haim, 17, and Nevo Werner-Reiss, 16, of Kiryat Ono. (Photos by Joe Sterling)

By Joe Sterling

It took the toss of a Frisbee disc to change Shadda Daburri’s world.

The Israeli Arab teen didn’t know Jewish kids growing up in her village of Tamra and heard only the negatives. But that changed when she embraced the sport of ultimate Frisbee.

Shadda joined a leadership and Jewish-Arab friendship program called Ultimate Peace, a movement in the Middle East centered on the team sport.

Several dozen people attend the Ultimate Peace event at Emory on March 26.

She made friends with Jewish teens, and now she’s part of a tight-knit ultimate tribe of Israeli Jews and Arabs and Palestinians.

Arabs and Jews, she said, “can live together.”

Shadda and her teammates are in the United States on a tour to promote the movement and play the sport. A contingent visited Atlanta from March 25 to 29.

They had events at Emory University, Grady High and WD Mohammed Schools of Atlanta.

Washington is on their schedule as well. They will mark the start of Passover there with a seder.

Team members spoke at Emory before several dozen people March 26. Some of the players also chatted with the Atlanta Jewish Times.

In its literature, Ultimate Peace says it is bringing together kids in “communities divided by conflict.” It “builds bridges of friendship, trust and leadership” and stresses “mutual respect, friendship, nonviolence, personal integrity and fun.”

The movement offers summer camps, leagues and clinics.

Its bridge-building centers on ultimate Frisbee because the sport is “self-officiated,” a reality that calls for cooperation and communication.

“Listening to another point of view, finding common ground, and resolving differences amicably,” Ultimate Peace says. “These are interpersonal abilities that can have extraordinary impact on the field and well beyond.”

Ultimate Peace’s Facebook page, where it has posted photos and capsule profiles of group members, has more than 11,000 likes.

The enthusiasm for peace comes through on the page and in person.

During their Emory event, the Ultimate Peace members focused on breaking the ice between the peoples.

Yonatan Ben Haim, 17, of Ra’anana said he made friends with his Arab teammates through Ultimate Peace. Jewish parents, he said, aren’t always comfortable with the Jewish-Arab interaction. He said his own parents were edgy when a teammate visited but quickly warmed up.

When young kids were going to a tournament, they and their parents were nervous. “What if someone takes out a knife?” the kids asked. “What if they start hitting us?”

NEWS-Ultimate Headshot
“If you don’t talk with someone, don’t judge them,” says Zaher Nujedat, 17.

Yonatan assured the parents that their kids would be safe, and they were. “It was such a great experience,” he said. “They had the best time. They had so much fun.”

Zahar Nujedat, 17, of Buena Nujedat stressed the importance of teamwork. Teammates pick you up when you make a mistake.

“We play together,” he said.

He said he had negative impressions of Jews until he met them. “When I joined Ultimate Peace, all my ideas changed,” he said. “If you don’t talk with someone, don’t judge them.”

Other than noting the animosity between Jews and Arabs, the visiting teens rarely referenced politics, but hot-button issues did come up.

The Gaza war last year was a challenge. Ultimate Peace made it through with outings, such as a movie and a trip to the beach.

“We’re a family,” said Lior Perlis, 16, of Binyamina. “We love each other.”

As for 17-year-old Shadda, she’s planning to go to college, maybe at Tel Aviv University or Haifa University, with a major that’s fitting for a young woman whose group promotes friendship and cooperation: chemistry.

read more: