This week was super exciting for PPI-ME: Celebrating both international and local basketball talent! Our coach Samih Kayouf and his team from the Druze village of Usafiya hosted a very special event with none other than the legendary former NBA player– Gheorghe Muresan.
Muresan was visiting as a part of an Exchange Program funded by the United States Department of State. The exchange was held between Palestinian and Israeli participants who visited the United States earlier this year, and American teens who are now visiting Israel along with Muresan. The American teens, from Ohio, are high school students who are part of an organization called World Learning, an NGO that facilitates educational exchanges all over the world.
Muresan is tallest player in the history of the NBA, and he impressed everyone with his overwhelming size and with his big heart! He led a shooting station for the Palestinian, Israeli and American youth and then served as a referee for a game of 5-on-5, for which participants played on mixed teams. It was clear that Muresan was a stickler for fundamentals, good form and sportsmanship. In the spirit of Druze hospitality, Samih and his family hosted the entire delegation at his home for refreshments after the event.
Later that day, our team headed south to Jerusalem to meet the Canadian Women’s basketball team, visiting Israel as a part of the 2013 Maccabiah Games. Held every four years, the Maccabiah is akin to the “Jewish Olympics”, whereby Jewish teams from all over the world gather to compete with one another.
The Canadian players led a group warm-up, ball-handling and shooting stations for PPI – ME’s Palestinian and Israeli participants from East and West Jerusalem, Holon, and Beit Shemesh. The group also had the chance to play a game of 5-on-5, with the PPI – ME participants and Canadian players competing on mixed teams.
We were honored to take part in these exciting events and to make new American and Canadian friends. Such events provide us with the opportunity to share our vision and our love of basketball with like-minded people from around the globe, emphasizing the universality of our hopes and dreams, and demonstrating the power of basketball in bridging divides.