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This week's blog is the first of a two-part series, written by PPI – ME curriculum facilitator Renana, which discusses
how the Israeli Palestinian conflict has impacted youth on both sides of the divide. This week we present the voices of three girls from East Jerusalem, Aia (14), Ranim (14) and Miral (15) – Palestinian girls who play in PPI – ME's Hand in Hand girls' team.  Below is a glimpse of an intense conversation Renana had with these charismatic, outspoken girls who have a whole lot to say about peace, shared living and sport.

How did you get to Peace Players?

Ranim: I'm with PPI since third grade. My friend at school played on the team at the time, and she told me I should come and check it out. I came and loved it— so I stayed.

Aia: I joined in seventh grade. My best friend is a wonderful basketball player, and when [PPI coaches] recruited new players to the PPI team at school, she encouraged me to join. It was a good idea for me, because I wanted to improve my sports skills. Plus, I suffer from Hypotonia [reduced muscle strength] and my doctors recommended that I join a regular sport activity. Basketball helps me get stronger physically.

Miral: I moved to Yad Be'yad school in fifth grade, and I heard everyone talking about PPI and the team. I became really curious, so I asked my mother to talk to my head-teacher to ask her if I can join the team—and that was it. I'm in it ever since!

In light of the increasing tension between Palestinians and Israelis how do you think PPI can carry out its messages of peace and shared living?

Ranim (left) takes part in a creative workshop with a friend from Beit Shemesh

Aia: We should create a movie about our organization, something that would reach out to people, that would move them to believe in our message. Also, we should go out together, the Jewish and the Arab teams, to demonstrate in public places against racist legislations. I'd like to show everyone that Jews and Palestinians can live together. I think the racist trend among youth has increased, because it's not "cool" to be friends with Palestinians. I had a Jewish girl in my school who was really pro-peace, and was a great fan of the Palestinian cause. Due to social pressure from her Jewish friends, she changed her perspectives, and moved out of our school. It's a shame that Jewish kids who'd like to have Palestinian friends become outcasts in Israeli society.

Miral: I live in Pisgat Ze'ev [a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem that was annexed by Israel during the 6-Day War], and often times I'm afraid to speak in Arabic near my Jewish neighbors! It's insane… My life proves to me that we have a lot of work to do. PeacePlayers should keep on advocating for their name and cause: Peace! Our name embodies our aim! Once people hear our name, and see our activity, it makes an impact. Even if small, our name has an impact nonetheless!

Ranim: I agree with Miral and Aya—we should publicize ourselves, make waves of interest. We have to focus on our beliefs, and not on the depressing politics. Focusing on the harsh reality will bring us down- it would discourage us. We should keep on practicing together, and grow with the organization.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Miral (right) jumps for the ball at a Twinning with Beit Shemesh

Miral: My dream is to be sort of an NBA player. I want to enter the court, wearing a shirt with my number on it, and people (who are into PeacePlayers) would recognize me. I also want to study law.

Ranim: I want to play basketball, but not professionally. I'd like to keep it as a hobby—going to university, and dribbling during my free time.

Aia: In five years from now, I see myself as a leading feminist activist. I'm hoping to lead a group that would foster and expand women's rights in our society. I also want to live in Tel Aviv with my friend Jumah, and coach a PPI group in the city (laughing) and of course—studying!!!

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