Our league teams are on mid-season break until the beginning of February, and we thought it was a good time to catch you guys up on how this season has been going for our powerhouse team, the Jerusalem All Stars. You might remember from last year that the Jerusalem All Stars is the first team with both Palestinian and Israeli players from East and West Jerusalem to play in the Israel Basketball Association’s elite youth league. Last year, the All Stars shocked the competition, with the totally unknown team blowing more veteran, esteemed teams out of the water. This is their sophomore season in the league, and they are one win away from first place in their division (click here to see a video clip from a recent game against a team from the city of Rehovot, which included at least six three-pointers by our girls). The Jerusalem All Stars have won all but one game so far. Their one loss was against the as yet undefeated Otzma Modi’in, whom the All Stars hope to upset in the second round of competition, a win that would push them into the number one slot.
Although we’re really proud of these girls for their accomplishments on the court, their success in the league means more than just a chance at the division championship. We first decided to engage in elite league basketball after recognizing from experience (following Twinnings with some heavy-hitting teams) that when the basketball competition is more serious, participants are more committed and invested: teambuilding efforts thrive and feelings of personal accomplishment are greater.
It also lends sports coexistence efforts with a greater level of exposure and legitimacy, catapulting small scale community efforts into the mainstream. After a year and a half in the league, we can tell you that these hypotheses have indeed proved to be true. The Jerusalem All Stars girls are like family, having forged a unified team identity that transcends mere ethnic and religious lines. This process of acceptance did not just impact the team, it impacted the girls’ entire league division as well, with opposing teams, spectators and league referees gradually gaining respect for these exceptional Palestinian and Israeli athletes. When the All Stars win, not just us at PPI win; rather, it is a victory for all Palestinians and Israelis who strive for peace.