Over the years, sports have often been a great unifier, bringing together disparate people from different backgrounds and cultures in their love of competition. With that in mind, what better way to build bridges and forge lasting relationships in the conflict-riddled Middle East than with a sport aimed at the youth of the region: Ultimate Frisbee.
Ultimate Frisbee is one of the fastest growing sports among the youth of America and an international nonprofit organization called Ultimate Peace has been bringing that love of sports and competition to Israel since 2009, and for the past couple of years Omaha native Julie Sadofsky has been helping them do it.
“[Ultimate Peace] is one of the coolest organizations I’ve worked with,” Sadofsky said. “It’s something you’ve never heard before, using a sport, as new and recently popular as Ultimate [Frisbee], to bring together youth from all these different cultures.”
Ultimate Peace holds camps and tournaments throughout Israel for Jewish Israeli, Arab-Israeli and Palestinian youth of all ages, from middle school through high school.
“The kids from the West Bank are bussed to camp, which takes a lot of time,” Sadofsky said. “Once they get to camp, the kids stay at a camp-style place where everyone sleeps together and eats together. Most of them have never had this kind of experience before.”
Sadofsky, who has played Ultimate Frisbee since 2010, first worked as an Ultimate Peace coach at a camp near Akko in northern Israel in the summer of 2012 after her Birthright trip.
“I knew I wanted to extend my stay in Israel after Birthright. When I heard about Ultimate Peace and its mission, I had to volunteer,” Sadofsky said. “I have a longstanding commitment to service and volunteerism, and this is an opportunity to combine that with the sport I love.”
Sadofsky, who is graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this May, went back to Israel on May 20 to lead a Birthright group. Now, she is volunteering and coaching in communities and villages in Israel and the West Bank. She will be returning to camp Ultimate Peace once again to coach next week. As a volunteer coach, she is responsible for fundraising $800 to support the program, scholarship for youth, and her own camp costs.
“Every coach has to fundraise in order for the organization to exist. As a nonprofit, it is entirely organized by volunteers and funded by donations.” Sadofsky said. “The money goes toward camp operations and scholarships for kids so they can attend.”
Sadofsky is hoping to raise her share before she leaves for Israel in May.
“[Ultimate Frisbee] is such a great way to create friendships between the different groups,” Sadofsky said. “It’s a teambuilding sport and a self-officiated sport, which means the players police themselves and each other instead of using referees. We emphasize sportsmanship and mutual respect to bring these kids together, kids who are interacting with people of cultures they’ve never met before. It’s a fun, exciting way to make friends and hopefully create bonds that will one day lead toward peace in the region.”
To donate to Ultimate Peace, visithttps://www.ultimatepeace.org/donate/ and be sure to indicate that the donation is in support of Julie Sadofsky.