Rachael Cerrotti, our camp photographer this year, reflects on ultimate, the Middle East, and Camp UP. You can visit her website at www.RachaelCerrotti.com.It is always challenging to try to find your place in a community that you are unfamiliar with. Meeting new people, adjusting to a certain daily routine, and attempting to understand a new culture and social dynamic can be overwhelming. How does one acclimate while still embracing their own personality and style? This is a perpetual challenge in life, but Camp UP provided me with an exceptional number of opportunities to figure it out.
Now, let me mention that I am not an ultimate player. I think that this small fact about me greatly influenced my experience at camp this year. Not only was I trying to learn the ins and outs of Arab-Israeli, Jewish-Israeli, and Palestinian cultures and relations, but there is also a culture of ultimate itself– which was completely foreign to me.
I only found out that I would be working with Ultimate Peace a few weeks prior to my already scheduled flight to Israel. In less than a week’s time, my 10-day trip turned into a welcomed six week long adventure.
I was beyond enthusiastic about this opportunity. I had known about Ultimate Peace for a while, as my friend Jonathan Masler, who is an avid ultimate player himself, introduced the organization to me in 2009 while we were studying abroad at Hebrew University. I was immediately intrigued. The idea of “promoting peace through spirit of the game” resonated with me before I even knew what this spirit was.
There were only a handful of us at camp who were as new at the sport as many of the campers were. I was not part of the ultimate community, which I have learned is a very tight-knit group. I did not know the rules of the game and learning about the self-refereeing aspect blew me away. I had never heard of such a thing in a competitive game, but all of a sudden it made sense; I now understood why ultimate frisbee was an effective tool for building relationships and learning conflict resolution skills.
In many ways, not being a player myself, made me feel like an outsider amongst the staff. I don’t mean that as a negative thing; it just gave me a very different experience. My zest for camp didn’t stem from my enthusiasm for the sport as it did for many of the coaches. I had a different perspective, much of it being drawn from my passion for documentary photography and my interest in Middle Eastern culture.
Being part of Ultimate Peace camp exposed me to a variety of different communities and groups of people. The inevitable challenge in life that I mentioned, existed in all corners of this camp. It was a diverse group of people, who sometimes only had the sport of ultimate frisbee to connect them. With language barriers being a common occurrence, the frisbee became a tool for conversation.
I am not sure what I expected arriving at camp, but I do know that I didn’t think it would be so easy. I assumed I would see some type of conflict. I have spent enough time living in Israel and analyzing it through an academic lens that I recognize that bringing Jews, Muslims, and Christians together can lead to cultural clashes. But, what I found was to be the contrary; it was as though none of the stigmas that follow either religious group existed. Ultimate Peace did an impressive job at making a fun and peaceful camp experience for all.
By staying away from politics and letting people be themselves, embracing and supporting unique personalities and styles, a very productive and happy environment was fostered. It didn’t matter if you were a top ultimate player, someone who has only thrown the disc around with friends, or if you have never touched a frisbee in your life, it was all about making friends and having a good time.