Discovering 50 Things Before I am 50: Sports


Hello from NYC! I am here to celebrate a milestone family birthday and wanted to share some of my progress on my project of 50 New and Adventurous Things Before I turn 50.

I went to my very first hockey game with JNTO. I loved being in the suite and learning about a whole new sport. I had never watched a hockey game on television or in person before. You may asking yourself, “Did she live under a rock?” Nope! I grew up in Los Angeles and never knew that I LOVE hockey! What a great sport. I love the non-stop action and the giant men jumping over the short wall to get back on the ice. They keep playing even when their sticks break. It was incredible. I cannot wait to go again. Thank you to the JNTO for introducing me to the L.A. Kings. I loved sudden death overtime and a shoot out to ELEVEN! AMAZING!

VideoMy first LA Kings hockey game

I went to my very first NCAA Basketball game and saw my own college team, University of Pennsylvania, play at Pauley Pavilion at UCLA. The Quakers were incredible for three quarters. I loved being there, cheering on my team and singing the Red and the Blue. The final score against Texas A&M (63 – 61) did know show that how well they played for most of the game.

Video: My First NCAA Women’s Basketball Game 2017

In the last year, I started a new sport. I am learning to play tennis. My coach recently said, “It is too bad we did not take video of you when you started.” I said, “Why? So people could see how much I sucked?” He said, “No, to see how much you have improved.” Once when I was very new with him, he said, “Lisa, What are you watching? Because it is definitely not the ball.” I had an eye issue for most of my life that was only recently diagnosed and treated.  I always thought I was uncoordinated and kind of wimpy. It turns out I could not hit a baseball or tetherball because I could not see the ball properly. After many months of weekly therapy, my eye doctor recommended I try tennis lessons. I said, “That sounds frustrating.” Dr. Brodney said, “You have learned new skills and now you have to challenge yourself to use them.” I have made great progress and continue to work on my hand-eye coordination.

VideoLisa Niver’s Tennis Lesson: 15 Months of lessons

It has been exciting to try out new activities like tennis and enjoy sports where I can follow the ball or the puck when others are playing. I recently went on the Olympic Bobsled in Utah. I am on the look out for more new and adventurous activities, let me know any suggestions for my 50 new things list!

Video: Lisa Niver, Adventure Correspondent for The Jet Set, in Utah on the Olympic Bobsled and skiing with the National Ability Center. (starts 16:45)

For Israeli tennis ace Andy Ram and ‘home’ crowd in Fla., a finale to remember


It wasn’t Tel Aviv, but thousands of people chanting his name at a Davis Cup match following a grueling victory was a pretty good way for Israel’s Andy Ram to leave the game of tennis to which he had devoted more than half his life.

Ram, 34, and his longtime doubles partner, Yoni Erlich, had just outlasted the Argentine duo of Federico Delbonis and Horacio Zeballos in a five-set match on Saturday that lasted nearly three-and-a-half hours.

With Ram sprawled out on center court — on his back, in tears — the crowd waved Israeli flags and “Todah [Thank you] Andy Ram” signs in Hebrew and chanted “Andyoni” and “Tishaer [Stay],” suggesting that he put off the retirement he had announced recently.

His teammates, wearing “Todah Andy” shirts, surrounded Ram, hoisted him in the air and carried him off the court. They proceeded to dump an ice-filled bucket on his head.

He would stay on the court for 20 minutes signing autographs and posing for pictures.

At a news conference afterward, Ram talked about his actions following the match, with Erlich and coach Eyal Ran at his side.

“I ran out of energy,” he said. “Then, as I was looking up at the sky and the birds, I got very emotional. And I cried like a baby.

“I thought of my father who couldn’t be here. I thought of my mom who was here. I left home at 14 to play tennis. Most of our relationship was on the phone. It meant the world to me that she was here.”

The doubles victory had put underdog Israel ahead 2-1 in the team match, but Argentina took both singles matches the following day to advance in the international tournament.

Despite the thunderous reception — as well as the Hebrew music heard frequently during the changeovers — Ram and his Israeli teammates lamented that the match was not played in central Israel, as scheduled, rather than South Florida.

In July, the Argentine Tennis Association requested a change in venue from the Nokia Arena in Tel Aviv due to security concerns surrounding the conflict in Gaza. The International Tennis Federation informed Israel in August that the match had to be moved. Israel appealed but lost; it would have to serve as host in a different location.

The Sunrise Tennis Club was selected from among several options. Much of the crowd there backed the Israelis, with a section of Argentines clad in light blue and white shirts rooting on their guys.

“We are playing here in the U.S.; it is a good feeling and yet it is not the best feeling,” Ram told JTA on Friday. “It was supposed to be in Israel. I wanted to play in front of my home crowd.”

His teammate, Dudi Sela, was a little more direct.

“The ITF made a mistake,” Sela told JTA. “We were looking forward to playing in front of 11,000 people cheering for Israel.”

Asi Touchmair, the chair of the Israel Tennis Association, noted in a statement that Israel has hosted the Davis Cup during times of war and military operations without having to move the matches.

Despite the distance and the logistics difficulties involved, Touchmair said, “we decided to play the Davis Cup in South Florida due to the warm and welcoming relationship that Israel receives from the United States, and where an atmosphere of a ‘home away from home’ will be experienced by our Israel Davis Cup team.”

Among those who made the trek to Sunrise was Andrea Eidman, an Argentine sports journalist who came from Buenos Aires.

“People asked me, who do you cheer for? And honestly, I didn’t care!” she said.

Eidman added, “For me, being present at that tennis court … with the Hebrew music going on and on, with the Israeli flags, the ‘Hatikvah,’ the shofar — it was a party from beginning to end!”

Ram, sitting in the stands on Friday with Erlich, 37, and cheering on his teammates during singles’ matches, told JTA he had no problem looking toward the future.

“I try to put it behind me, like in the past,” he said. “I am the kind of guy who is always thinking, ‘What’s next?’

“It was fun. It was a good time. Next is to focus on my kids [aged 5 and 7]. To see them growing, to be great athletes. To find myself, my way.”

Ram and Erlich – natives of Uruguay and Argentina, respectively — reached as high as No. 5 in the world doubles rankings. They advanced to 36 finals and won 20 of them, including the 2008 Australian Open. Ram also won the Wimbledon mixed doubles in 2006 and the French Open mixed doubles in 2007.

Ram is particularly proud of his Davis Cup record of 19-5 following the one final victory – achieved despite pulling muscle in his left leg late in the fifth set.

“I sent Jonathan on a suicide mission,” Ram joked. “He said, ‘Just get the serves in. I will do the rest.’ ”

Erlich’s particularly strong volleys powered the duo in the final set in 91-degree heat.

Ram spoke of his partnership with Ehrlich.

“When we go on court together, magic happens. We communicate. We know what the other one will do,” Ram said.

Erlich offered, “We had motivation, energy and a lot of belief.”

Eidman summed up what much of the crowd was likely feeling on seeing Ram’s finale.

“I felt like crying when Andy Ram said goodbye to tennis,” she said, noting that the Argentina team’s Jewish captain, Martin Jaite, was playing in his final match, too.

Eidman also said, “I would have loved to travel to eretz Israel instead of America. … It hurt my heart not to go to Israel because of the war.”

But, Ram said, “11,000 people screaming Andyoni is amazing!”

ATP scraps Israel tennis tourney over Gaza conflict


The inaugural ATP Negev Israel Open, scheduled to take place near Tel Aviv next month, was canceled due to the Gaza conflict.

The ATP announced the cancellation on Monday hours before the announcement of a 72-hour cease-fire and negotiations toward a truce between Israel and Hamas.

The Negev Israel Open, which was scheduled for Sept. 15-21 in Ramat Hasharon near Tel Aviv, would have been the first ATP World Tour event held in Israel since 1996. The tournament had a $1 million purse.

“We regret the ATP World Tour event in Tel Aviv, Israel, will not take place this year,” said Chris Kermode, the ATP’s executive chairman and president. “Sadly, we do not feel we can proceed as planned given the situation in the region.

“Ensuring the security of our players, fans and all those involved in organizing a world-class event is our No. 1 priority. We hope to be back in Tel Aviv next year. In the meantime, and much more importantly, we hope for a swift return to peace in the region.”

Asaf Tochmeir, chairman of the Israeli Tennis Association, said the association “regrets” the decision, and noted that it had “done everything to ensure a successful ATP event.”

At the Maccabiah, making mom, grandma and great-grandma proud


For a week before they started competing, many of the 1,100 U.S. athletes in this year’s Maccabiah Games toured Israel and learned about their Jewish heritage.

But when Yale Goldberg steps onto the tennis court this week, he’ll have another tradition to draw on. He’ll be representing the fourth generation of his family to compete in the games.

His parents played tennis and swam for the U.S. in 1997, the year a bridge collapsed during the games leading to the deaths of four athletes. His grandmother swam for Israel in 1953, the second games after Israel became a state. And his great-grandmother and great-grandfather played volleyball and sprinted, respectively, a generation earlier.

“They always wanted me to play in the Maccabiah Games,” Goldberg said of his parents. “I’m really excited to be here, to keep the tradition going. It feels like I should be here.”

His grandmother, Anita Deutsch, was the youngest athlete in the 1953 games, but being 12 years old didn’t stop her from taking silver in the 100m swim. She has memories of contestants from other countries taking out trinkets and kissing them for good luck before springing into the pool.

“At that stage in my life it was the high point of my life,” said Deutsch, who now lives in Manhattan. “There was camaraderie among the other kids who participated.”

Goldberg isn’t the only member of the American delegation with family history at the games. Maccabi USA General Chairman Jeffrey Bukantz, who’s leading this year’s delegation, spent his career chasing his father’s fencing achievements at the Maccabiah.

Bukantz’s father, Danny Bukantz, won fencing gold at the 1950 Maccabiah. In 1981, Jeffrey finished fourth. He cried, and resolved to do better next time. In 1985, he took bronze, cried again, and set his eyes on 1989.

During Jeffrey’s third Maccabiah, in 1989, he finally won gold.

“When I got the gold medal I flipped my mask in the air and jumped uncontrollably three times,” he said. “I was crying like a faucet.”

This time, they were tears of joy.

Israeli tennis star, 12, wins prestigious tournament


Israeli 12-year-old Yshai Oliel won an international tennis tournament that has launched the careers of some of the world's tennis stars.

Yshai Oliel won the boys under-12 Orange Bowl international tennis tournament on Dec. 22 in Coral Gables, Fla.

Previous winners of the tournament include Jimmy Connors, Andy Murray, Jennifer Capriati and Monica Seles. Israeli tennis star Shahar Pe'er won the girls tournament, for under-14, in 2001.

Oliel, of Ramle, becomes the first Israeli boy ever to win the tournament.  He defeated Patrick Sydow of Aruba in the finals. He lost only two games in his first three matches, and lost one set in the tournament, in the semi-final match.

He has been playing tennis for eight years. 

In gear for Maccabiah Games


When Steve Pompan played on the U.S. tennis squad at the last Maccabiah Games in Israel, he was struck by the spectators’ tribal inclination to give advice to the players battling it out on the court.

“While I was playing, they kept telling me, ‘Hit the ball deeper,’ or ‘Use your backhand,’ ” recalled Pompan, a Los Angeles portfolio manager.

Pompan participated in the quadrennial Maccabiah Games, dubbed the “Jewish Olympics,” in 2009. He took along his wife and kids, and the sense of bonding in Israel with some 8,000 Jewish athletes from 60 countries blew him away.

“That was a life-enriching experience, a life-changing experience,” he enthused. “Definitely a bucket list type of deal.”

Pompan is now the volunteer West Coast director in charge of the regional tennis tryouts for the next Maccabiah Games, to be held July 16-30, 2013, in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa. Recently, he was at the MountainGate Country Club, encouraging some 60 male and female hopefuls — and competing himself.

For these particular tryouts in the Master’s division, competitors ranged generally from 35 to 64, but there was one notable exception.

She was Joyce Eisenberg-Keefer, 77, who, besides running the New Mart Building showrooms and supporting a long list of philanthropies, works out every morning for three hours on a treadmill and other fitness equipment.

“I can hold my own,” she avowed, and proved it by teaming up with Hally Cohen, 36, to qualify for the women’s doubles competition.

One of her likely venues in Israel will be the Ben and Joyce Eisenberg Israel Tennis Center in Jerusalem, endowed by her and her late husband.

Another hopeful was Arnie Friedman, competing in the 60-plus age category, who fondly recalled the 2005 Maccabiah Games, when he and his partner won a bronze medal in the men’s doubles.

“We wore our Maccabiah ID tags, and on the streets people kept stopping us, saying, ‘Thank you for coming.’ That really got me.”

Friedman, a radiologist for the Veterans Administration in Fresno, also remembered the emotional wallop of the opening and closing ceremonies, when the thousands of athletes from 60 countries sang “Hatikvah” in their different accents. 

Rick Lieberman, an actor/director and Westwood resident, learned tennis in his native Brooklyn and on his cousin’s court on Long Island. He expressed his respect for his fellow competitors in the 60-plus age group, who indeed showed the skill and stamina a player half their age might envy. 

Steve Soboroff, another Angeleno, is also busy preparing for the 2013 Maccabiah Games, though he is better known for his financial and organizing acumen than for his athletic prowess.

Tennis

Bernie Wesson in action. Photo by David Herman

Soboroff is a mega real estate developer, the driving force behind the creation of the Staples Center, and he was a member of the Los Angeles organizing committee for the 1984 Olympics, which turned an anticipated sea of red ink into an unprecedented $225 million surplus.

So it offended his entrepreneurial instincts when he realized in early 2008 that the 18th Maccabiah Games, the following year, would have little in the way of international television coverage or bill-paying sponsors. That meant that there wouldn’t be enough money left to pay for the participation of Jewish athletes from smaller communities or poorer countries.

His first step was to form a Committee of 18 (for the 18th “Chai” Maccabiah Games), consisting of top names in the entertainment industry, media, marketing and advertising, who, in addition to lending their expertise and attending meetings, had the privilege of each contributing $50,000.

Building on this base, the Committee of 18, retaining its original name, has expanded this time around to more than 40 members and will lead a VIP delegation of more than 200 to attend the Maccabiah Games, meet privately with the Israeli prime minister and enjoy other perks.

During a recent evening barbecue at a Bel Air mansion, Soboroff and Eyal Tiberger, executive director of the 2013 Maccabiah Games and the Maccabi World Union, gave a preview of next year’s events.

For the first time, opening ceremonies will be held in Jerusalem and closing ceremonies in Haifa, and an expected 9,000 athletes from a record 70 countries, including first-timer Cuba, are expected to participate. 

Most of the action will be beamed to millions of potential viewers around the world via the JLTV channel, and Soboroff’s committee expects to raise around $2.2 million, which will underwrite the participation of some 300 athletes from poorer communities. 

Added to the competitive sports this year will be equestrian events and ice hockey, on top of the last Maccabiah Games’ additions of lawn bowling, cricket, 10-pin bowling and futsal (indoor soccer), as well as bridge and chess.

Athletes must be fed, of course, and at the 2009 Maccabiah Games participants consumed 450,000 kosher meals, 200,000 meals-to-go and 1.5 million quarts of mineral water.

But more important than statistics, logistics and medals are the bonds forged between the world’s Jewish athletes and communities, Tiberger said.

“Between 70 to 80 percent of the athletes will be on their first trip to Israel,” he said. “All participants tour the country extensively and take part in a three-day orientation of Jewish heritage and Israel.”

Israeli tennis duo upsets defending Olympic champs Federer and partner


The Israeli Olympic tennis duo of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram upset the 2008 gold medalists in men’s doubles, Roger Federer and Stanislaw Wawrinca of Switzerland.

The Israelis beat the Swiss pair, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3, in the second round on Wednesday and advance to the quarterfinals to play the top-seeded duo, brothers Mike and Bob Bryan of the United States.

Along with Israel, the Erlich-Ram victory brought grins to Jewish communities to Argentina and neighboring Uruguay. Erlich was born in Buenos Aires and made aliyah with his family when he was a year old. Ram is a native of Montevideo, Uruguay. His father is the Israeli Betar Jerusalem soccer player Amiram Ram; his mother is Uruguayan.

Erlich and Ram have been representing Israel for more than a decade. Their greatest victory came in 2008, when they won the Australian Open. They also own Davis Cup wins in 2009 over Russia, in 2007 over Luxembourg and Italy, and in 2006 over Great Britain.


For more Olympics coverage, visit jewishjournal.com/olympics.

Italy’s Camila Giorgi falls in Wimbledon’s round of 16


Camila Giorgi, an Italian Jewish player, lost in her upset bid to reach Wimbledon’s quarterfinals.

Giorgi, 20, who coming into the prestigious tournament was ranked 145th in the world, was beaten by Poland’s third-seeded Agnieszka Radwanska, 6-2, 6-3, on Monday in London.

Giorgi had won six matches to reach the round of 16, including a 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) victory over 20th-seeded Nadia Petrova of Russia and an upset of 16th-seeded Flavia Pennetta, also of Italy.

Meanwhile, the Jewish Chronicle reported that the Israeli Tennis Federation may offer Giorgi $100,000 to immigrate to Israel in return for 30 percent of her prize money during the next few years. Her father, Sergio, reportedly is negotiating the terms of the deal with the federation.

For Italian Jewish sports fans, it was another setback after Italy’s loss the previous day in the Euro 12 soccer championship game. Mario Balotelli, the foster son of an Italian Jewish mother, was shut down in the 4-0 loss to Spain after scoring both of Italy’s goals in a 2-1 upset over Germany in the semifinals.

Israelis at Indian Wells


Israeli women’s tennis pro Shahar Peer has experienced some success at Indian Wells, but Israeli men’s pro Dudi Sela has yet to play on the hard courts. Both are scheduled to compete in the BNP Paribas Open, which began Monday and runs to Mar. 18.

Peer, ranked 34th in the world, has reached at least the fourth round in five of the six times she has played there. This includes quarterfinal appearances last year and in 2007.

The Indian Wells Masters tournament comes at a time when Peer hasn’t been playing well in 2012. Other than a finals appearance in January at Hobart, Australia, Peer has not won her way beyond the third round in six tournaments. She has not won a tournament in three years.

Sela, ranked 63rd, has never won on the men’s pro tour and has just one finals appearance (2008, Beijing) since turning pro 10 years ago. In 2012 he’s 6-6, having reached the fourth round in five of his six tournaments. The exception: a first-round ouster at the Australian Open.

Indian Wells is only one of two non-majors that runs beyond eight days. It also hosts the men and women’s tournaments at the same time, which is unusual outside of the majors.

Rising tennis star Nadine Fahoum: In her own words


My name is Nadine Fahoum and I am a 21 year old Israeli Arab Muslim from Haifa.  When I was 6 years old and it was time to enroll me in elementary school, my parents faced a very complex dilemma—whether to enroll me in the ―Reali Hebrew School or in an Arab school in Haifa.  Eventually they made the decision to send me to the ―Reali Hebrew School.‖  Today, I am very grateful for that decision.  Until my third year in school, when my brother enrolled in the school as well, I was the only Arab kid in school.  My mother felt that this needed to be changed and together with the school principal, we arranged a meeting between kids from our school and kids from Arab schools in Haifa.  The coexistence program of getting Jewish and Arab kids together was very successful and was received beautifully in both communities.I started playing tennis when I was 9 at the Haifa tennis center which was 15 minutes from my house.  My first coach built the foundation and he is responsible for my unlimited love of tennis. With his help and a lot of determination, I won my first national tournament when I was 12.  I was Ranked number one in the country every year until I turned 18.  My biggest highlight was representing Israel in European and World Championships. I became the First Arab athlete to represent Israel in the Youth Olympic Games in 2006.

I would love to share with you some of my career highlights.  In January of 2008 I joined the Old Dominion University tennis team.  I started off playing number fourfor the team, but quickly capture the number one spot.  At the end of my freshman season I received the MVP award for my team and NCAA conference rookie of the year.  My sophomore season I was consistently playing at number one position on my team for both singles and doubles, and made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in doubles.  My junior season was even better and I beat the number one girl in the nation, from Northwestern and climbed to the number 15 spot in the nation. That year I participated in the NCAA in singles and doubles; I also became the first tennis female player to win athlete of the year award at Old Dominion University after receiving NCAA conference player of the year and team MVP for the third consecutive year. During my time at Old Dominion I also made it to the dean’s list twice and received many athletic and academic awards. After my junior season I transferred to Duke University where I had the honor to play in the number 1 position for the third ranked women’s tennis team in the nation.  My doubles partner, Ellah Nze, and I reached the semifinal of the All American tournament and became the number 4 doubles team in the country.  That year my team and I reached the quarter finals of the NCAA tournament and participated in both singles and doubles as well.

This amazing opportunity of coming to the United States and getting a full scholarship to play at these fabulous schools all started back in the days where I was part of the coexistence program at the Haifa Tennis Center.  This program is so close to my heart and gave me the foundation to understand that education is what will change my future.  I would like to give you some of my thoughts about the program that is definitely making a huge impact on so many kids in Israel.

The Israel Tennis Centers established a program where tennis coaches from the Centers visited Arab schools and invited youngsters to join the Israel Tennis Centers’ family.  More and more Arab youngsters started coming to the Tennis Centers all over Israel.  The program became so successful and my mother, who is a big believer in the coexistence program, together with the manager of the Tennis Center in Haifa arranged a tournament for Jewish kids and Arab kids.  It was amazing to see how the kids interacted and respected one another and enjoyed the special atmosphere.  It was much more than just competing on court.  We all understood that this is a great lesson for life.  I was so proud to be part of this program and to be an ambassador for Israel and the Tennis Centers.  The Tennis Center was a place for all of us where we could forget our daily challenges and just be kids and have fun.

At the Tennis Center we all learned not just to speak about coexistence, but simply live it and enjoy it.  I became a better person and a lot of doors opened for me and I am extremely grateful that I have been given the opportunity to be part of the Tennis Centers family.  Without the Israeli Tennis Centers, I would not be at the place I am today.

I am looking forward to seeing you at our exhibitions and I am so excited to be part of the team.  Shalom my friends, Nadine.

Nadine Fahoum is Duke University’s number one singles player. She has won over 107 singles matches over the past two years, and is ranked the 15th best singles player in Division 1. An Arab Israeli from Haifa, her training and education were made possible in part by by the Israel Tennis Foundation and scholarships to promote Arab-Jewish coexistence.  Below, in her own words, is her story.

Has Anyone in Israel Asked Why the Swedes Hate Us?


Was it a coincidence? The day after Israel’s Davis Cup tennis match in Sweden, played in a practically empty arena this week, a brief item appeared on the Haaretz Web site: Historians have discovered that Sweden, former tennis superpower, aided the Nazi war machine by extending credit to German industrial plants.

Coincidence or not, neutral in 1941 or not, 68 years later, public opinion in Sweden is definitely not neutral: Thousands demonstrated there against Israel, which was forced to wield its racket like a leper, with no audience in attendance. Did anyone in Israel even ask why it was considered a pariah in Sweden? No one dared question whether the war in the Gaza Strip was worth the price we’re paying now, from Ankara to Malmo. It’s enough to recall that the Swedes were always against us. The fact that there were times when they were awash in love for Israel was erased from our consciousness. Click here to read the rest of the article at haaretz.com.

Net losses for Israelis at Olympics


BEIJING (JTA)—Israel’s tennis players were eliminated from the Beijing Olympics.

Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, the third-seeded men’s doubles team with perhaps the best chance at a medal among the Israelis on the court, were upset Tuesday by the unseeded tandem of Arnaud Clement and Llodra Michael of France, 6-4, 6-4, in their first-round match.

Erlich and Ram had beaten the Frenchmen in January in the Australian Open final to give Israel its first Grand Slam title.

Also Tuesday, Tzipora Obziler fell to Mariya Koryttseva of Ukraine, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4, in a grueling three-hour women’s singles match. The deciding set lasted an hour, 6 minutes.

That same evening, Obziler and Shahar Peer dropped a women’s double match, 6-3, 6-2, to Gisela Dulko and Betina Jozami of Argentina.

Peer, the 24th seed in women’s singles, was eliminated in the second round Monday by Russia’s Vera Zvonareva, 6-3, 7-6. The second set took 1:11.

Peer had won her first-round match, 6-3, 5-7, 6-0, over Sorana Cirstea of Romania.

Israeli woman makes history at U.S. Open


Shahar Pe’er became the first Israeli woman to reach the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open. Pe’er, the No. 18 seed, defeated Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, 6-4, 6-1, in a fourth-round match Monday in New York City.

In her next match, on Wednesday, she will face Russian Anna Chakvetadze, the No. 6 seed, who beat unseeded Austrian Tamira Paszek, 6-1, 7-5. Radwanska, the No. 30 seed, had upset defending champion and second-seeded Maria Sharapova before losing to Pe’er, who is ranked 19th in the world.

Meanwhile, the Israeli men’s doubles team of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich were eliminated in the third round of the tournament Saturday night.

The Israelis were seeded sixth. Ram is still alive in mixed doubles play, moving into the third round with French partner Nathalie Dechy. Ram and Dechy advanced by defeating a Taiwanese-Israeli team that included Erlich.


Read more about Shahar Pe’er


–Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Tennis star puts Israel in grip of Shaharmania


Golda Meir may still hold a prominent place in the hearts of Israelis, but right now the most popular woman in Israel is a 20-year-old who swings a tennis racket for a living.

Her name is Shahar Peer, and while she is only a private in the Israeli army, she is ranked 18 in the world on the pro tour. She is featured almost daily in newspapers, on the radio or on TV and has become a household name. But if Israel is suffering from a touch of Shaharmania, it’s not difficult to understand why.

Over the last three years Peer has climbed steadily up the rankings from 183 to 45 to 20. She reached her highest ranking of 15 earlier this year, a standing that only one other Israeli tennis player, Anna Smashnova, has ever reached. Peer solidified her position at the top of women’s tennis last year by taking home three singles titles (Pattaya, Prague and Istanbul). But it is her run at the 2007 Australian Open that has some speaking of her as a Grand Slam contender. She was just two points away from eliminating Serena Williams in the quarterfinals before losing in a tight third set. And she is only in the fourth year of her pro career.

The list of impressive tournament results could go on, but what’s important here is to grasp just how big a feat it is to make it to 15 in the world. Consider that America, which has a large talent pool and significantly more resources than Israel, did not have a single player in the women’s top 20 for the year ending 2006.

The best way to describe Peer’s game is tenacious, scrappy, determined. In short, she’s a fighter. Some see in her on-court demeanor the embodiment of Israel’s national persona — the tough underdog that always finds a way to beat the odds — and conclude that Peer plays as she does because she is Israeli. Peer, however, doesn’t make that connection.

“There are many Israeli tennis players who don’t play like me,” she said. “I don’t think it is because I’m Israeli or Jewish. That is just how I am. That is just how I play on the court.”

Although she makes a good point, the analogy is not likely to go away soon.

On the court, Shahar is a study in self-motivation. There are frequent “come ons,” audible slaps to the thigh and spirited fist pumps. But her most distinctive mannerism is a move she does between each point. She turns her back to her opponent and closes her eyes for a few moments as if in meditation. When asked to explain, she says simply, “that’s between my psychology and me.” No matter the score, her attitude, body language, indeed her presence, state unequivocally, “I am not going away.”

Earlier this year, I had the chance to watch her play at the Pacific Life Open, an annual tournament that brings to the Palm Springs area most of the top players in the world. In nearly 100-degree heat, Shahar managed to defeat Anna Chakvetadze, the No. 8 seed, with a demonstration of agility, guts and outstanding defense. A typical point has Shahar sprinting at break-neck speed from one side of the court to the other as if on a metronome, reversing direction so quickly that her sneakers audibly screech across the hot court. The ball flies off her racket with tremendous pace and spin so impossibly close to the top of the net you’re certain it’s a lucky accident, except for the fact that she does it 10 times in a row.

At each of her matches a cheering section of boisterous Israelis inevitably seems to form, waving Israeli flags and shouting words of encouragement in Hebrew. Some of the most common are: yofi (good), kadima (go on), and achshav (now). And while the entire country seems to ooh and ahh with every point she plays, Shahar takes all the attention in stride.

“After Australia it was crazy in Israel,” Shahar said. “They support me a lot and give me good feedback. So, I don’t feel the pressure. I feel people want me to succeed.”

One Israeli tennis fan, Etti Zuckerman, explained why she thinks Israelis have embraced Shahar with such gusto.

“Yes, we’ve had other female tennis stars. But Shahar is different,” Zuckerman said. “Smashnova was Russian first, and then became Israeli. Shahar was born and raised in Israel. She’s an example of what Israel can do.”

“Whenever Israel’s name comes up in the media it’s always about war,” the long-time tennis fan added. “I want the world to know that Israel is much more than that. We are a beautiful people and we have much to offer the world. When Shahar plays tennis the whole world sees that. And that … that is important.”

Shahar Peer is playing this week at the Acura Classic at the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad and next week, starting Aug. 6, at the East West Bank Classic at the Home Depot Center in Carson.

Local community refuses to forget 12 missing Persian Jews


12 missing Persian Jews: not forgotten

Nearly 300 members of the Iranian Jewish community and local Persian-language media gathered at the Nessah Cultural Center in Beverly Hills on Sept. 27 for an event sponsored by the Council of Iranian Jews to discuss the fate of 12 Persian Jews who were kidnapped by the Iranian secret police between 1994 and 1997 and have not been heard from since. Family members of the missing 12 Jews were on hand to express their frustration with lack of cooperation from the Iranian regime.

“I am sure my son is not lost; he’s alive and being held by the Iranian government and that regime must answer to where they are holding our youngsters!” said Elana Tehrani, whose 17-year-old son, Babak, was arrested by Iranian secret police when trying to flee Iran into Pakistan in 1994.

Those in attendance cried when photos of the missing 12 Jews were held up for the audience with their names and dates of abduction announced. An emotional recorded telephone message to the community from Orit Ravizadeh, one of the missing Jews’ wives living in Israel, was also played for the audience.

Speakers at the event included Nessah’s Rabbi David Shofet and the Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abraham Cooper. Persian Jewish activists George Haroonian, Bijan Khailli, Frank Nikbakht and Pooya Dayamin who spoke at the event said they have been active in trying to resolve the case of the missing 12 for the last six years.

Earlier this month, the kidnapped victim’s families filed suit against Iran’s former President Mohammad Khatami for implementing a policy of abduction and imprisonment of their loved ones.

— Karmel Melamed, Contributing Writer

Smile, darn ya!

Operation Smile, a leading humanitarian and medical services organization dedicated to helping improve the health and lives of children and young adults worldwide, honored humanitarians Vanessa and Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump family; L.A. Clippers of present (Elton Brand) and past (Norm Nixon); and Abbott, the global health care company, at its fifth annual Operation Smile Gala Sept. 21 at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Among the prominent civic leaders in attendance were Milt Hinsch, Jerry and Vicki Moyers, Joe and Sue Kainz, Dennis Seider and dental innovator Dr. Bill Dorfmann, author of “Billion Dollar Smile, a Complete Guide to Your Smile Makeover.”

The evening, whose honorary chairs were Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and his wife, Cindy, began with a VIP party, complete with goodies and piano accompaniment and culminated in a dinner and awards ceremony emceed by “Access Hollywood” host Billy Bush. Guests were royally entertained by multi-Grammy Award-winner Christopher Cross and Debbie Allen’s Dance Academy.

Lladro, the renowned Spanish House of Porcelain, donated $150,000 to the cause and the evening included a surprise visit from Madelein Cordova Dubon, a 2-year-old girl from Honduras who was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Event co-chairs Roma Downey and Mark Burnett had recently participated in an Operation Smile medical mission in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, where they met and bonded with Madelein.

Operation Smile was founded in 1982 by Dr. William P. Magee, a plastic surgeon, and his wife, Kathleen, a nurse and clinical social worker. It has provided free reconstructive surgery to more than 100,000 children and young adults with cleft lips, cleft palates, tumors and other birth defects in 32 countries around the world.

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Dr. Sarah Weddington, renowned winning attorney in one of the most famous cases in U.S. history, Roe v. Wade, spoke at the annual fundraiser for the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRRAP) recently. Opening her speech, she immediately expressed her deep sadness about learning of the death of her dear friend, colleague and fellow Texan, Ann Richards, former governor of the state of Texas.

“I had the privilege of knowing Ann since the early ’70s,” she told the large group of supporters who turned out for the event. “When it came to running for a political office, Ann was a guru and pioneer in the art of running for political office and winning. Her inspiration, courage and quick wit were element of her savvy personality. Ann Richards was a friend, mentor and role model for women.”

WRRAP raises money for low-income women of all ages, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds who are unable to pay for either emergency contraception or a safe and legal abortion. The event featured sumptuous hors d’oeuvres and a wine reception. Following Weddington’s speech and comments on the upcoming Proposition 85, which would prohibit abortions for California teens until 48 hours after their parents have been notified, there was a Q-and-A session.

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Israel’s Grand Duo


Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram think they can win the upcoming U.S. Open. Come again? The Grand Slam tennis tournament that no Israeli has come close to winning?

“Every tournament we enter we think we can win,” Ram said.

Erlich and Ram nearly backed that up two years ago at Wimbledon. They reached the doubles semifinals, and Ram butted into the mixed doubles final. That makes them the top Israeli Grand Slam duo in history.

Last month, Erlich and Ram were in the heat of the Mercedes-Benz Cup on the UCLA courts, reaching the final. The U.S. Open begins in New York on Aug. 29.

“We’re playing at a really high level,” Ram said, “and we’re communicating well.”

They yak in Hebrew. But the inseparable friends also could banter in English and Spanish, thanks to their South American heritage, but they consider themselves “100 percent Israeli,” as Erlich put it.

Erlich was a 1-year-old when his grandfather packed up the family in Argentina and landed in Haifa. Ram was 5 when his parents said it was time to leave Uruguay and make Jerusalem home.

Erlich, 28, and Ram, 25, have won a combined $1 million in career prize money.

The night after chatting with The Journal, Erlich and Ram beat a French team in three tight sets in the L.A. quarterfinals.

A sparse crowd stayed until the midnight finish. Among the diehards was Avi Suriel, who led his wife and two sons in cheers for the Israelis. No wonder. He served four years in the Israeli military before coming to Los Angeles at age 25.

“I can’t believe more from our Jewish community aren’t here,” he said.

Erlich appreciated the support.

“Thanks for waiting,” he said to fans as he left the court.

For more information on the U.S. Open, visit

Center Court


At the Mercedes-Benz Cup doubles final last Sunday at UCLA, the clumps of Israelis in the grandstands waved their blue-and-white flags between points and yelled out encouragement in Hebrew. They were cheering on the team of Yoni Erlich and Andy Ram, who had reached the finals by defeating the top-seeded team in the world, Americans Bob and Mike Bryan.

At one point a woman began chanting, “Yisrael! Yisrael!” and a few others joined in, but mostly people just clapped and smiled, thrilled that their country could put such a team on center court.

Given the news from Israel this week, the tournament setting — a spirited but genteel competition on a quiet, sunny day — was all the more incongruous. The country faces one of the watershed moments in its history. Make no mistake: When Israel begins its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza — the slated date is Aug. 16 — a new chapter of history books will be written. It is a huge event in the life of the country, and in the saga of the Jews.

Much of this issue is devoted to the pros, the cons, the risks and the rewards of the withdrawal. “Disengagement” is a plan that has the support of the majority of Jews in Israel and America, but thoughtful and caring critics also have raised their voices.

Indeed, the plan promoted by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to pull Israeli citizens and soldiers out of land Israel has controlled since 1967 has shattered long-standing political categories and created a confusing political realignment.

Are left-wing supporters of the Sharon’s Likud government now de facto right-wingers? Is Sharon, once the nation’s fiercest hawk, now its most effective dove? What of right-wingers who championed Sharon two years ago? Where do they turn for political leadership? And what of Sharon’s long-standing left-wing critics? Is it strategically wise for them to put forward a left-wing critique of Sharon at this critical moment, when the prime minister has embraced a major tenet of the left-wing agenda? What are the nuances of and divisions within the new left and the new right?

“I’m for getting out of Gaza,” one left-wing Israeli diplomat told me last week. “But I’m against unilateral withdrawal.” Sharon, he said, has gone about it all wrong: using anti-democratic means to ensure a demographic result that he hopes will strengthen Israeli democracy. The diplomat would have preferred more coordination with the Palestinians, including more concessions from Palestinians.

The diplomat also said that there’s a very good chance the withdrawal will be seen by Palestinians as a victory for terrorism, even though such a conclusion would be yet another catastrophic mistake on their part.

Leaders like Natan Sharansky have voiced similar warnings from the right, or the new right, and Sharon has successfully squelched their influence for now.

“Oh, it’s going to happen,” the diplomat told me, when I asked if opponents and threats of civil war would deter Sharon. “There is going to be a withdrawal.”

And so, no one knows what will happen.

Viewed from this side of the ocean, Israel should be reaping praise for all its pain. The American churches that have supported total or partial divestment from Israel need to reconsider their foolish untimely punishment in light of Israel’s unprecedented step. Sadly, some critics on the left can’t bring themselves to credit Sharon and the Bush administration for pursuing a risky step toward de-occupation; these naysayers most likely will never be satisfied with anything short of Israel’s demise.

As for the choices available to Sharon, the real world offered him a messy set of options, and he chose the one he believes will make his country safer.

Trying to understand Sharon’s position, I thought again of the tennis match. Never mind that the doubles team, in the end, lost. Anybody with even a cursory understanding of Jewish history will tell you there was something miraculous in their being there at all. Throughout Jewish history, normalcy has never been a given.

Israel remains a small country of great promise, great achievement and great peril. Ideally it would be a bigger country, but the dream of modern Zionism has always been to sustain a normal life in a normal country.

What Sharon has done is seize an opportunity to come closer to the Zionist dream, by sacrificing the Zionist ideal. Let’s pray he’s made the right call.

 

Israel Serves Up a Star


When the U.S. Open swings into New York Aug. 30, you’ll have to squint to find Israel’s tiniest tennis player.

It’ll be easier to catch her on the scoreboard. She’s the one with the muscular name — Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi — and the big game.

Generating power with her 5-foot-2, 117-pound frame, Smashnova-Pistolesi has smashed her way to No. 19 in the Women’s Tennis Association rankings.

You can simply count on Smashnova-Pistolesi. This is her third straight year ranked in the top 20. She’s 9-0 in WTA tournament finals. That makes her one of Israel’s most effective athletes.

Smashnova-Pistolesi has done it on the go. She was born 28 years ago in Minsk, Belarus. Her family moved to Israel when she was 14. She stays at her parents’ home in Herzelia when she’s in the country. She has her own home in Italy, where she lives with her husband, the former pro Claudio Pistolesi.

You can call Smashnova-Pistolesi a walking United Nations. But she knows her loyalty.

“I always play under the Israeli flag and represent my country at every tournament,” she said. “I am always happy by the widespread support that I receive from Israeli fans throughout the world.”

Even though Smashnova-Pistolesi stands tall in Israeli sports, her Italian shift makes it tough for her to connect with some Jews. She keeps trying to win points well after serving in the Israeli army in the mid-1990s.

“If there are people who don’t appreciate what I have done,” she said, “I can only say that I am sorry that I cannot reach out to everyone, but with so many tour events, the rigorous training necessary and the constant traveling, tennis is really a demanding sport.”

She also waves the flag for other Israeli players: “Shahar Peer has a lot of potential. She is ranked No. 17 in the juniors and has a very good attitude. She could become quite good, and there are also some good boys; Dudi Sela got to the semis of the U.S. Open junior boys event last year.”

Smashnova-Pistolesi has had an active summer. She entered all the California tournaments and the Olympics. She didn’t win a trophy or medal, but in Los Angeles she picked on someone much bigger, Daniela Hantuchova, and cut down the once-rising Slovakian.

The next day, Smashnova-Pistolesi wilted under a sizzling sun and against a hot Svetlana Kuznetsova. The fullbacklike Russian proved too strong.

“She didn’t give me many chances,” Smashnova-Pistolesi conceded after getting cooked.

Smashnova-Pistolesi hopes to bounce back at the U.S. Open. She certainly has the strokes, especially one mean backhand. It could be the third best one-hander among women pros after Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne and France’s Emelie Mauresmo.

If Smashnova-Pistolesi beats top pros such as those, her name will grow. Even if her body doesn’t. — Bucky Fox, Contributing Writer

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Free tunes at the Skirball this afternoon, as part of their continuing “Café Z” series. This time it’s the Latin jazz stylings of Angelo Metz’s Brazilian Ensemble, performing for you al fresco, as you imbibe frothy coffee drinks in the shade.

Noon-2 p.m. Free. 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 440-4500.

Sunday

Eastern Europe meets western this evening, with the Los Angeles Jewish Symphony’s performance of “Two Streams in the Desert,” a merging of klezmer and Ladino music. The orchestra, along with Russian clarinetist Leo Chelyapov, flautist David Shostac and the “Jewish Pavarotti” Alberto Mizrahi entertain with both Ashkenazi and Sephardi sounds.

7:30 p.m. $12-$36. Ford Amphitheatre, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood. (323) 461-3673.

Monday

This week, UCLA welcomes the Mercedes Benz Cup 2004 men’s
tennis tournament. See Andre Agassi and other top players show off their
athletic prowess, or just come for the guys in tennis shorts.

7 Days In Arts


Saturday

Let’s make a deal? Monty’s offering you one you can’t refuse. Continuing today and tomorrow is the 31st annual Merchant of Tennis/Monty Hall/Cedars-Sinai Diabetes Tennis Tournament. You might have missed last night’s cocktail reception, but that’s no reason to skip today’s tournament. Plus, Sunday’s championship finals take place at that earthly Valhalla — the Playboy Mansion.$450 (tournament entry fee). Mountaingate Country Club, 12445 Mountaingate Drive, Los Angeles. $150 (championship). Playboy Mansion, Beverly Hills. (310) 996-1188.

It’s got the trappings of a good murder mystery, but Col. Mustard stays away in Robert E. Sherwood’s “Idiot’s Delight.” Colorful characters go about their business while stranded in a Fascist Italy hotel on the eve of World War II.8 p.m. (Thursday-Saturday), 7 p.m. (Sunday). $20. Runs through Oct. 19. Lillian Theatre, 1078 N. Lillian Way, Hollywood. (323) 960-5521.

Sunday

What with the kids back in school, it’s dawned on youthat you actually miss the little buggers. Indulge this tender moment and takethem with you to Park Labrea’s seventh annual Art in the Park Art Fair andFestival, featuring a children’s “fun field” with art workshops and children’sart display. 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. Free. 6200 W. Third St., Los Angeles. (323)549-5580. www.artinthepark.com .

Jews, Muslims and Christians come together for some interfaith dialogue at the Laemmle Fairfax. The program includes a screening of Ruth Broyde-Sharone’s 18-minute documentary, “God and Allah Need to Talk,” as well as performances by Palestinian violinist Nabil Azzam, Iranian entertainer Mitra Rahbar, Ladino music singer Stefani Valadez and the Yuval Ron Trio with percussionist Jamie Papish.Noon-3 p.m. $10 (suggested minimum donation). 7907 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 837-2294.

Monday

Don’t let the title fool you. Those who love a parade shouldn’t attend Alfred Uhry’s “Parade” expecting baton twirlers atop toilet-papered flatbeds. It’s called irony, people, and Uhry uses it well. His Pulitzer Prize-winning musical tells the tragic tale of Leo Frank, a Brooklyn-born Jew living in Georgia, who was executed for a crime he didn’t commit. The show kicks off the Musical Theatre Guild’s eighth Broadway in Concert season at the Alex Theatre tonight.7:30 p.m. $35. 216 N. Brand Blvd., Glendale. (818) 243-2539. Also Sept. 21, at 2:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. $38. The Janet and Ray Scherr Forum Theatre, Countrywide Performing Arts Center, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza. (805) 583-8700.

Tuesday

Short and sweet, “The Ice Cream Man” screens today at the Silver Lake Film Festival. That’s short, as in not feature length, and sweet, as in ice cream. Written and directed by Dylan Rush, the film tells the story of a turf war between ethnically divergent Venice Beach ice cream vendors.11:30 a.m. $10. Vista Theatre, 4473 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood. (866) 468-3399.

Wednesday

With the High Holidays approaching, do you know what you’ll be putting on the table? Perhaps you should let Sur La Table help you out. Chef Judy Bart Kancigor offers a cooking demonstration titled “Not Your Grandma’s Rosh Hashanah Dinner,” based on her cookbook “Melting Pot Memories.” On the menu: Layered Hummus Eggplant, Braised Turkey Breast Pinwheels With Spinach and Exotic Mushroom Stuffing, Southwestern Sweet Potato Tzimmes in Chile Pockets and Cream Puff Taiglach Towers With Honey Almond Caramel Sauce.6:30 p.m. $45. Farmers Market, 6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles. Also tomorrow in Santa Monica. (866) 328-5412.

Thursday

Milla Jovovitch performs punk covers of klezmerfavorites and Adrien Brody ventriloquizes in Greg Pritikin’s new film, “Dummy.”Opening this week, the offbeat romantic comedy about a nebbish who still liveswith mom and dad follows his endeavors in learning the art of ventriloquism andin wooing his unemployment counselor. Some are hailing it “My Big Fat JewishWedding,” while others point to some disappointing clichés. We leave it to youto decide who the dummy is. www.artisanent.com.

Friday

Give peace a chance? Maybe after today’s outing. Currently on display at Jack Rutberg Fine Arts is “Requiem for War: Paintings by Hans Burkhardt.” The works, which span the years 1938-1993, use abstract expressionist symbolism to reflect his responses to the Spanish Civil War, World War II, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm and the conflicts in Latin America and the Middle East.10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Tuesday-Friday), 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Saturday). Runs through Sept. 30. 357 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 938-5222.

Serving Jewish Pride in L.A.


Jewish tennis players served up a strong presence at this summer’s Los Angeles-based pro tournaments, with Israelis Harel Levy, Noam Okun and Anna Smashnova participating in recent Southland competitions.

Levy, who lost to American Toby Ginepri in the first round, and Okun played in the 76th Annual Mercedes-Benz Cup held at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center held July 20-28. Levy, 24, ranked the No. 1 Israeli player in 2000 and 2001, smiles when he’s told that younger Jewish players look up to him. "It’s nice to hear that. I want to represent Israel and the Jewish people the best I can," said Levy, who served three years in the Israeli army. "I play for myself first. But then whatever my play can do for the Jewish community is great — just great."

Smashnova, who has ranked as high as 17th in the world, is less comfortable in the Jewish spotlight. "I am not [a] practicing [Jew]," said Smashnova, 22, who lost to American Alexandra Stevenson in the first round of the JPMorgan Chase Open in Manhattan Beach held Aug. 4-11. "I’d rather talk about something else."

Born in Minsk, Smashnova moved to Herzelia, Israel, in 1990 with her family. Although she attended high school outside Tel Aviv and served two years in the Israeli service, she now spends most of her time in Italy. "I play for Israel. But I don’t think much about what’s happening there, especially when I’m on the court," she said.

But for Levy, who lives in Ramat-Hasharon, Israel, its current political situation is never far from his mind. "I am always worried about my friends and family and girlfriend, who are all there," Levy said. "But I try to focus on and enjoy what I have to do on the court. Because one thing I’ve learned from all this is that you have to enjoy life when you can. You never know what’s going to happen." — Carin Davis, Contributing Writer

Co-Existence on the Court


Against the backdrop of four impeccable tennis courts in the exclusive Israeli town of Caesarea, an elegant female attorney addressed an attentive audience, a virtual “Who’s Who” of the Israeli tennis world: stars, Glickstein, Perkis, Blum and Mansdorf; local and international supporters of the Israel Tennis Centers; and officials of various tennis organizations. Interspersed among them were 50 excited boys and girls wearing brand new tennis tee-shirts. Although, few had ever picked up a racket, the children had been chosen to undertake a five-year program of intensive tennis instruction.

The attorney was addressing the mixed-crowd in her native tongue: Arabic.

The occasion was last month’s inauguration of the Israel Tennis Center’s pilot project “Co-Existence in Tennis,” whose main funding comes from donations of Los Angeles businessman Dan Harrari. Although Arab children already participate in Tennis Center tennis programs — notably in Haifa, Jaffa and Beersheba — this unique new program is geared towards very young players, ages six to nine, comprised equally of Jews and Arabs.

The inspiration and driving force behind “Co-Existense” is the energetic and visionary, Freddie Kravine, 80, who serves as president of the Israel Tennis Federation and is one of the original 1976 founders of the Tennis Center.

Kravine, alternatively addressing the assembled guests in the precise English of his native Britain, and in resounding unwavering Hebrew, declared, “We don’t see any difference between a 6-year-old Arab girl from Faradis and a 6-year-old Jewish girl from Ramat Aviv.”

When asked what motivated him, Kravine is incredulous. “In all the years that our Centers have been in existence,” he says, “not one single Arab youngster has risen to be among the top players, despite [the fact] they comprise a full 20% of our nation’s population. This program aims to change that.”

Another goal of the program, no less important, is to establish an on-going conduit of communication among Arab and Jewish children. Although all the children live in fairly close proximity, the chances of these Arab youngsters ever stepping foot in Caesarea and meeting their Jewish Israeli counterparts is remote — their homes, towns, schools and friends are either all Jewish, or all Arab.

For the next five years, this segregated world will be breached. Thirty-six children from four neighboring communities will learn how to play tennis, together. The children are drawn in equal numbers from affluent Caesarea, the adjacent Jewish working-class town of Or Akiva, the middle-class Arab village of Faradis and the less well-off village of Jissar al Zarka.

All participants of the program will get intensive training by a leading coach, who himself plans to teach with a lot of smiles, encouragement and body language: Most of the Arab children speak no Hebrew, and the coach knows no Arabic.

The program is a luxurious one: Educators will help the children with their homework on the three afternoons they play tennis, as well as on the other days of the week. Caesarea has put its country club at the disposal of the project. Coaches were staggered when 360 children showed up to be tested for “tennis potential.” Two-hundred and fifty children came from the village of Jissar al Zarka alone.

“Co-Existence in Tennis” is a radical and visionary program.