I played basketball on a professional team during high school when my coach first introduced me to PeacePlayers International (PPI), an organization with the mission to solve conflicts through basketball. I volunteered with PPI in 2006 as an assistant coach and it changed my life and has had an incredible influence on who I am today. When I finished high school, I did what every Israeli has to do and joined the Israeli Army to serve my country. In that time, I served as a commander for the basic training of soldiers and other commanders. That period of my life was also very meaningful and also shaped who I’ve become, but after three years in the military service, I decided to return to PPI. This organization has taught me that things can be different, that the intense violence and heightened emotions are retractable, and that the two sides of the conflict can think and feel positively about each other. In spite of everything negative that has come before, those who believe themselves enemies can become friends.
Children on both sides of the conflict grow up in a sometimes confusing reality, subjected to a lot of opinions from adults, the people in their life that are supposed to know the most. The problem is that often times these adults only see their side of the conflict, just like a fight between two children. Only after rejoining PPI did I truly see both sides of the conflict.
Six months ago I discovered the Andi Leadership Institute for Young Women (ALI) and could not wait to apply. I’m now about to travel to the program and what most interests me is to meet girls from places I never imagined I would meet anyone from (Kosovo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, India, Mississippi, and Pensylvania), to learn about different cultures, and to acquire the skills to influence those I come into contact with. I’m excited for the program and looking forward to every moment, while at the same time nervous and sad as the situation here in Israel has become more complicated and violent. To leave now is so difficult as my family and friends live under threats from the sirens and missiles. On the other side, innocent civilians are dying every day and I am always concerned for my Palestinian friends. I wonder what the other girls will think of me. Will they see me as Heni or just think of me as the “Israeli girl?” It makes me feel stressed but I still cannot wait to meet them, to hear what they think and what they feel. I know this will be life changing.
This is why I joined the program and know that it will be a success. To share with others my perspective, to hear about theirs, to learn from each other. To gain the tools that will help me make small changes that one day will become big changes. I hope that my home Holon, Israel, my home, that amazing small place will one day change and that people will not need to die for it, but only want to live for it.