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Integration through basketball.
Adi Vettori (22) is the head of the "Jerusalem 48'ers" a basketball team that has a special vision and it is to integrate southern Jerusalem Ethiopian teenagers into society via basketball. The team practices in Talpiyot, a suburb of Jerusalem with one of the highest percentages of Ethiopian residents.
Vettori and Erez Eshel, the head of the Youth Administration of the ministry of education, sat together about 3 years ago and the vision was formed. They decided that a basketball team should be formed as a social project with Ethiopian integration as its goal. The project was secured financially and it got off the ground. In 2012 Stuart Harris, the son of the owner of the NBA team Philadelphia 76ers Josh Harris, heard of the project and donated some of his Bar Mitzvah money to the project.
In 2013, Josh Wasserman, a huge basketball fan also donated some of his Bar Mitzvah money to an Ethiopian community in the city of Safed for establishing a basketball team. The money was used to build a new basketball court, to buy jerseys and to pay the salary of a coach.
But Vettori didn’t have a clue about how much time and effort she would put into the project. It was more difficult than expected to find Ethiopian youngsters that would be into basketball. Even the few who were convinced to have a try with the big orange ball were frustrated quite fast. They were poor at baskets and they didn’t know how to dribble.
In Ethiopia basketball is still a niche sport. The sport lost its significance since the mid-60s even though its popularity is growing again nowadays. The Ethiopia national basketball team has never succeeded to qualify for the Olympics or World Championship, and the team isn’t ranked by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA).
But still the Jerusalem 48ers are playing, and how! Driven by ambition they play with joy and enthusiasm! They also play against well-established teams like the youth team of Hapoel Jerusalem.
Basketball is one of the most popular sports in Israel. Thousands of Israelis held their breaths when Maccabi Tel Aviv won the ULEB-Euroleague Championship last May. Omri Casspi, the Israeli basketball player, currently playing for the NBA team Sacramento Kings, is a hero among many children in Israel. And by the way, the name of the team “Jerusalem 48ers” was chosen based on the foundation of the State of Israel 1948.
The training and the sport aims to provide some structure and teach commitment to the often marginalized kids. It hopes to build the kids own potential and build their feeling of belonging to Israeli society. If it was up to Vetorri the project would be expanded nationwide and establish teams like this throughout Israel.
This is a blog post from "Bundle of Love - Immigrants" from our "Support Israel" section. We appreciate every donation. In order to help the Land of Israel and her immigrants see "Support Israel".