The young women’s team representing Israel at the recent WFDF World Juniors Ultimate Championship in Dublin, Ireland achieved a landmark for the sport of Ultimate and their country by fielding a team composed of both Arab and Jewish athletes. Prior teams at the World Junior Ultimate Championships had been comprised entirely of Jewish athletes. While other Israeli sports teams have occasionally had one or two Arab players on them, few Israeli teams have had this measure of balance. The Women’s Juniors (under-20) team was composed of 10 Jewish and 6 Arab players.
According to the Israeli team’s head coach, Miranda Roth Knowles, former Team USA World Champion player and Gold Medalist at the 2005 IWGA World Games, and current Director of Coaching for Ultimate Peace, “the team practices regularly, boasts numerous cross-cultural friendships, and prides itself on team unity, cohesion, and as being a sign of hope for co-existence. Interaction between these Arab and Jewish Israeli youth would be highly unlikely without involvement in this sport, since day to day Israeli life is mostly segregated.”
The main catalyst behind this special team is the previous involvement of nearly all of the girls on the Israeli national team in Ultimate Peace (www.ultimatepeace.org), a non-political peace-through-sports non-profit group that has been promoting Ultimate Frisbee (aka Ultimate) in Israel and the Middle East for the last three years. Ultimate was chosen as the tool for bridging the Middle East cultural divide because it is a non-contact team sport that requires intensive communication and team coordination to succeed. Moreover, it is self-officiated and there are no referees, so all disputes must be resolved by the athletes involved whenever there is a foul or other infraction (ie a conflict) before play can proceed. Ultimate Peace believes that the skills acquired in the game transfer into life beyond the sport.
Robert “Nob” Rauch, WFDF President, stated that “we view the participation of this fully integrated Israeli/Arab young women’s team as a doubly impressive achievement in this 2012 Olympics “Year of the Woman.” We fully subscribe to the ideal of “peace through sport” and are pleased that a dedicated group such as Ultimate Peace, headed by CEO Dr. David Barkan, has been able to achieve notable success in a troubled region of the world in such a short period of time.”
The World Flying Disc Federation, host of the World Junior Ultimate Championships, has partnered with Ultimate Peace for several years, including fiscal sponsorship of the organization and a significant grant award in support of a 2011 program expanding their efforts into Colombia, another troubled region. In that program, which received major support from Medellin’s local development agency INDER, approximately 40 coaches from Colombia, Mexico, and Argentina, and around 200 Colombian youth players, participated in clinics focused on promoting the five values of Ultimate Peace: mutual respect, integrity, non-violence, friendship, and fun. This was the first step in a three-year program to culminate with a program in Cali which will be held in conjunction with the 2013 World Games.
Ultimate is one of the fastest growing youth team sports in the world. Twenty countries were represented at this recent WFDF world championship tournament. For more information, go to www.wjuc2012.com .
The World Flying Disc Federation (“WFDF”) serves as the international governing body of all flying disc sports. WFDF is made up of the National Associations (“Members”) that govern their respective disc sports activities. There are currently Members representing athletes in 54 countries. WFDF is a member of SportAccord and the International World Games Association, is recognized as a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) registered corporation in the State of Colorado, USA, and is a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Agency code.
About Ultimate Peace
Ultimate Peace is a not-for-profit organization which builds bridges of understanding and friendship between youth who live in communities divided by conflict, using the character building sport of Ultimate Frisbee as its tool. The flagship program in the Middle East has been providing over 300 Arab, Jewish, and Palestinian teens with diverse programs since 2009 – offerings include local team development, league competition, cross-cultural social interaction, and leadership development. Expansion to Columbia began in 2011, and new programs are being seeded in Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Dr. David Barkan