Ultimate Peace

By Tom Bomberg

In 2008 I began coaching for Hopkins High School Ultimate Frisbee team. I quickly became passionate for teaching and introducing kids to the joys of playing Ultimate. A year later, I decided to spend 7 months living and studying in Israel. Although I still wanted to continue teaching frisbee; soon after my decision I learned about Ultimate Peace.

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Ultimate Peace’s mission is to build friendships and understanding between youth who live in communities divided by conflict. At that time, Ultimate Peace was just starting to take off with only eight locations in the Middle East. The young frisbee players I was coaching were Palestinians, Arab Israelis, and Israeli Jews. My job was pre-camp—I introduced them to the sport, although during these introductions the kids were with their same culture, not mixed yet.

I went into many communities I would never have set foot in otherwise. At times it was scary, others times it was exciting. Welcomed into the various communities with open arms and smiles from kids reminded me of my time as a youngster learning the game for the first time. I happily taught the youth how to throw and catch frisbees and learn the rules of the game. I was one of 12 coaches from different backgrounds—for me, it was interesting getting to know other frisbee players from around the world, hear how they got involved in the game, and learn their tricks of the trade. There was obviously a language barrier, that all the coaches had to deal with, so translators were always there to lend a helping hand.

All the locations varied—indoor basketball courts, outdoor basketball courts, park fields, etc.
The practices were exactly what I do at my home court: throw, warm-up-run, drills, and ending with a scrimmage. Besides the language, the only other difference was the striking amount of kids playing—it seemed to me as if the entire school had come to play! I have never coached that many kids in one location! Frisbees were flying everywhere! If I wasn’t careful, I’d get rocked in the face!

The most memorable experience for me was Jericho, not necessarily the coaching, rather crossing the border. We needed to show our passports to get across a few places, and my fellow coach that day is a dual citizen (Israeli and American). I was shocked to learn that if he showed his Israeli Passport to the border control he would not be allowed to enter. This is most surprising to me because no matter what passport you hold, Israel will stamp your book and let you pass. This crossing set the mood for the rest of the afternoon. Everyone was on edge.

Today Ultimate Peace has evolved to 14 communities. Of the 300 youth players, approximately 25% are Palestinian, 35% Israeli Jews, and 40% Arab Israelis. The camp is usually in a location in Israel because of the restrictions the West Bank has on allowing Israeli’s into the area.

I look back on my experience with Ultimate Peace and cherish it. I enjoy sharing my love of frisbee with teenagers and my time teaching was eye opening and hopeful. I hope that Ultimate Peace is successful in it’s mission to bring friendship and understanding. The next time I’m in Israel I look forward to working with Ultimate Peace.

**You can learn more about Ultimate Peace at http://www.ultimatepeace.org/

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