Tel Aviv, Jericho, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, and Acco

It’s been a busy two days!

On Saturday I had a leisurely morning which included making my way to the coffee shop across the street to purchase an “American” sized cappuccino which I thoroughly enjoyed on my walk north to the Sportek. There I found the Israeli Juniors warming up and I had some time to catch up with them about their night.

Each of the three teams moved through more targeted skill drills and I helped out where I could. I gave some drill ideas to Dan, one of the girls’ coaches, and helped Yarden with the U-17 team, going over some zone defense tips with his group. I also got in to play in a some of the scrimmages and found that after the initial shock of playing in the heat, it wasn’t too bad. We ate lunch at the fields and the continued with more drills. Around 3pm the girls team started a scrimmage against some local club players and the game was quite fun to watch. The Junior girls played very well against a strong adult club mixed group. At around 4:30 I took off with Chelsea and Maggie and drove east to Ein Rafa to meet up with Karym.

At Karym’s, we switched to his car and ate some very yummy water melon on our ride to Jericho. On the way I snuck in a short nap and woke up refreshed for the clinic. In Jericho we found some very hot evening weather and 10 kids who were very ready to play. Chelsea led them through a great, very active clinic. She warmed them up and then had them work through a marking drill, cutting, and a go-to drill. I was very impressed by the skill level of the kids and how fast the new kids picked up the game. During some of the drills I talked with Karym and the local contact Farris about the town and region. I learned a great deal about their background and plans for the future. During the last drill the evening Call to Prayer echoed in the background. The clinic finished up with a lively cheer and lots of high fives.

Karym, Maggie, Julie, Chelsea, and I then drove the short distance to the round-about center of Jericho where Karym found us a place to eat dinner. Out on the second floor balcony of the place, we stuffed ourselves with Falafel and Shawarma, and finished up the meal with a round of Arabic coffee, a drink I am not quite accustomed to. Next, we drove west, crossed the checkpoint, and made it back to Karym’s place where Maggie and Chelsea took Chelsea’s car back to Tel Aviv.

Karym, Julie, and I then drove back east, first dropping Julie off at a friend’s house outside of Ein Rafa. Karym and I then passed back through the check point and a few blocks later found Hamouda, my host for the night! A short walk later into the Azzeh refugee camp, Hamouda and I arrived at his parents home where got comfortable in a living room area.

Over the next hour I met two of Hamouda’s brothers and one of his cousins, along with both his parents. I had a wonderful time talking to them all, relying heavily on Hamouda for translation. I learned that Azzeh is the smallest of the three refugee camps in Bethehem, with a population of about 2,000, and about the various complexities of living int he region. Hamouda’s mother showed me the weaving business she runs with other local women, and I learned about Hamouda’s father’s IT Directorship job. Eventually my energy waned and I slept. Well.

I woke up in the late morning on Sunday and after getting cleaned up a bit, Hamouda and I walked over to his family’s small Falafel business where we picked up breakfast. Next, we walked down the main street in Azzeh, and then a few more blocks to the Church of the Nativity. Hamouda gave me a tour side by side with the throngs of people visiting the area. Outside the Church I called home and talked to my mother a bit, hours before she had to preach. Fun stuff. Hamouda and I then walked up through more of the local Shuk area, then took a taxi to another area of Bethlehem where we saw another one of the checkpoints along with the entrance to the largest of the three refugee camps in Bethlehem, Dheisheh. Next, we took a bus back to Azzeh and walked a few blocks to the wall where I had the chance to see, up close, many of the murals. Right there in front of me was a large painting of “Love Wins”. Powerful stuff.

Back at Hamouda’s parent’s house, we both rested a bit before diving into a very large lunch made by his mother. The meal consisted of a pilaf rice cooked with chicken and rice pilaf, some vegitables, and a kind of fried meat dumplings. During lunch I talked more with Hamouda’s father Kamel and his mother Sauyed, as well as Hamouda’s sister. During lunch Kamel and Hamouda worked on paperwork for local children coming to Ultimate Peace Camp, as well as the logisitics of getting 8 Bethlehem kids along with Hamouda and myself to the evening clinic in Beit Sahour.

At around 5:15 we went out to the street and soon Kamel picked us up with his car. We then drove to the checkpoint where we met the small bus of UP Coaches coming in for the clinic. The bus then followed us to the Beit Sahour clinic location.

I started the clinic circling up the kids and some of the coaches to pass a disc back and forth while saying their own names. We mixed in a second disc and then transitioned to about 20 minutes of a turn the page cutting drill that the kids really got into. We added a swing pass after the catch, and then a double high five to the point where the kids were changing direction. After a water break, we transitioned into playing “It’s up!” which the kids absolutely loved. As the drill progressed, more and more kids joined in, and by the end of the clinic over 30 kids were running, catching, and in some cases diving!

We finished up in a circle where were did a “1-2-3 Beit Sahour Bethlehem!” cheer. Everyone left quite happy and very excited to play more Ultimate in the coming weeks! Al the coaches then piled back into the bus, passed the checkpoint, then unloaded at the Jerusalem bus station. About 20 minutes later we were on the 480 bus heading west back to Tel Aviv. At the Tel Aviv station, a group of coaches split off to go to Roy’s for the night, while Julie, Nathan, Maggie, and I walked back to Chelsea’s to pick up our stuff. After a short rest at Chelsea’s, which included getting a round of fantastic Calzones from a nearby shop, we got a taxi and drove back to the bus station, which is also a train station. There we got our tickets to Acco and boarded our train.

About an hour and 45 minutes later we were in Acco, where we were picked up by Zolo and Tomer, two of the local Ultimate Peace rock star administrators. A five minute drive later we made it to Manof, the site for the whole camp. After a bit of socializing in the main office, we all went to bed, excited for the days to come!

It’a now Monday morning and the plan for the day is to complete a few tasks around camp and then go swimming. Nathan, Maggie, and I are hoping to make it down to Haifa either today or tomorrow. The second group of coaches gets in tonight, with the bulk coming in tomorrow and Wednesday. It’s about to get quite busy here. In other news, I have gained the added responsibility of being on a team of 3 people who will work to run the pre-camp training for all the coaches. I can’t wait!

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