In 2010, the Jerusalem All-Stars, a team made up of both Arab and Jewish elite girl basketball players, ages 12 to 17, began competing in Israel’s National Youth League, the highest level of youth basketball in the country. It marked the first time ever that integrated teams emerged from East and West Jerusalem (Arab and Jewish communities, respectfully) and the first time ever that girls from East Jerusalem had the opportunity to participate in the league. Two years later, the Jerusalem All-Stars are a permanent presence in the league, and a force to be reckoned with. The Jerusalem All-Stars are now on a mid-season break until the beginning of March. What better time to catch up with them and see how the season has been going? For the three teams, the season has been a series of successes both on the court and off. Read on to see how the under 14, under 16 and under 18 All-Stars are doing.
The youngest All-Star team has finished the first half of the season with zero defeats. Go girls!
The Under 16 All-Stars have only lost one game so far this season, and are poised to finish the season in first place, which would catapult them to a higher division next season. Through their victories in basketball, the All-Star teams are showing that Palestinians and Israelis can be a winning combination. These girls are not just successes on the court, however; their team identity continues to be forged off the court as well. One recent example of this is the “coexistence sleepover” that took place earlier this month at a team member’s home. It is virtually unheard of in the Israeli-Palestinian context for kids from one group to visit the home of a peer from the other group, let alone for a sleepover party! But for these girls, it is all a normal part of being together on the same team, and normal is certainly something we could use a little more of in these parts.
“We were not able to take our dynamic as a team for granted, and what came out of it was more solid because of the challenges we had at first.” – Jerusalem All-Star Player
The Under 18 All-Stars is the most competitive team of the three, competing in the national league, which includes all of the top players from around the country. They are in the top half of the league roster, having won the majority of games they have played. The team got off to a slow start, as it took some team members – those who had never met girls from the other side before – time to adjust to playing on a mixed team. One such player looked back at the beginning of the season and observed, “In the end it made us a better team because we were forced to learn how to work together. We were not able to take our dynamic as a team for granted, and what came out of it was more solid because of the challenges we had at first.” One example of how far the team has come socially is a recent pot-luck dinner that was held earlier this month at one team member’s house. Everyone brought tasty treats from home, which also gave Palestinian and Israeli girls the chance to taste each other’s cuisines.