Drew Kennedy’s Experience Playing in Israel
Drew Kennedy, a professional basketball player, still remembers the day he arrived for the first time in Israel in 1989. His family members and friends questioned his decision, as he was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team in 1987.
Kennedy decided to join Hapoel Galil Elyon, a basketball club from Israel when he failed to get a chance to play in the NBA. It was the chance for Kennedy to perform at a higher level.
The club which Kennedy joined was from the northeastern region of the country and was located between the Sea of Galilee and the West Bank. Kennedy’s arrival in Israel coincided with the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The conflict even worsened with time and continued throughout the decade of the 90s. It ended with the bus massacre of Tel Aviv on 16 July, where 18 people lost their lives in a suicidal attack.
Kennedy remembers the nights when he stays at home and hears the shooting of rockets. People suffered a lot, and there were many casualties. “There was tremendous pressure on me from my family asking me to come back,” says Kennedy.
Kennedy says, “Instead of returning home, I decided to stay with my teammates. I loved the sense of community, which I had never experienced before.” It is to learn from Israelis the resilience that they showed during a time of crisis.
Weather in Israel Favorable for American Players
Israelis enjoy all four seasons. The weather is humid in summers, while the winter is cold. January is the coldest month in Israel, with winter temperatures ranging between 6-15 °C. The months of July and August remain the hottest, with temperatures varying from 22 to 33 °C. The moderate temperature suits most of the American players, as they have extreme chilling winters in the US.
The weather in Israel is moderate and favorable for sports activities. With the relaxation in Covid-19 norms, all sports activities are allowed, whether indoor or in the open stadium.
The Israel Basketball Premier League is a clear example of sports activities in Israel with full-house attendance. One can be sure what the Weather in Jerusalem tomorrow or throughout the year will be like. Most of the year, it remains bright and sunny, and favorable for all kinds of sports activities.
Israeli Basketball Premier League Hosting Many Afro-American Players
Like Kennedy, numerous African-American basketball players are participating in the Basketball Premier League of Israel. In Hebrew, they call the Israel Basketball Super League the Ligat Winner Sehome. The premier league offers a chance for these professional players to perform at an international level and earn a decent amount of money. Some of these players have even married Israeli women and converted to Judaism. They are now ambassadors of Israel and represent the Jewish state on the International level.
Kennedy participated in a debate held in New York on the 27th of May. The program featured Cory Carr, Derrick Sharp, and Deon Thomas, former basketball players in Israel. The Consulate General of Israel sponsored the panel discussion where the players recalled their careers and discussed the cultural and religious dynamics of Israel. They also discussed the career and life of African-American players in Israel.
Safety and Social Acceptance Attracting American Players
“Israel is safer for black people than any other place. Especially, after the incident in Minnesota,” Derrick Sharp added, referring to the killing of George Floyd during the arrest in Minneapolis.
Apart from terrorism, the players enjoy happier times in Israel. The former players reminisce about Shabbat’s dinner on Friday night with the teammates. During the games, the Israeli fans are more passionate. They respect the players of the country, which you miss on NBA courts. These are words of Derrick Sharp, who won 13 championships in Israel playing for Powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv.
The African-American Player who misses the chance of playing at the NBA courts chooses Spain, Italy, or Greece for a stable career. Israel is becoming one of the favorite destinations for these basketball players. There are more than 110 American players of this category, playing basketball in Israel with a promising career and great lifestyle.
How’s It’s Like Living in Israel for American Players?
Living in Israel is not different from the lifestyle of that in America. The people of Israel have a very high living standard, and most of the people in Israel speak English. The country has some of the world-famous beaches, and the weather is mostly warm.
The American players get the chance to participate in the Euroleague, where teams compete with other teams from all over the continent. Players like Luka Doncic from the Dallas Mavericks are a few examples.
Aulcie Perry was the first American to play in Israel in 1967 for Maccabi Tel Aviv. The native of New Jersey converted to Judaism and became a citizen of Israel. Amar’e Stoudemire, the former NBA star, is unarguably among the biggest names from 800 Americans ever played for Israel. Stoudemire accepted Judaism in 2018 and is now an Israeli Citizen.
The Israel Basketball Premier League is currently crossing the limits of passion. With the ease in coronavirus norms, the league is getting a tremendous response. Although Israel controlled the spread of the coronavirus very effectively, sports activities halted in March 2020. However, it started in June 2020 without spectators.
Kennedy remembered the historic title-winning moment in 1993, stopping Maccabi’s continuous winning for 23 years. Kennedy played for 12 years with 6 basketball clubs in Israel. He announced his retirement in 2002 when he was a member of Ironi Ramat Gan.
Kennedy added, “I am incomplete without mentioning Israel in my life.”