Yoni Ben Naim has traveled to Israel at least yearly since his birth nine years ago, but this summer, he’s a little nervous about the trip. The Brawerman Elementary School fifth-grader has been tapped to serve as an on-air interviewer for JLTV‘s coverage of the 18th Maccabiah, the quadrennial international Jewish sports competition which begins Monday, July 13, in Israel. (JLTV’s coverage is available nationally on channel 366 via DirecTV; otherwise check your local cable company for channels and times or www.jewishlifeTV.com ).
Yoni isn’t nervous about language differences—he is fluent in Hebrew because, as he explains “My dad is Israeli and he has been teaching me since I was a baby.” Yoni’s fluency will come in handy as will his knowledge and enthusiasm for a range of sports, but particularly basketball and soccer, arguably the Maccabiah’s biggest and most closely watched competitions. Eleven countries are competing in the basketball competition and 18 nations are sending soccer teams.
But he is a little nervous about being on TV. He has been practicing his interviewing technique with his dad, Gal Ben Naim, and watching ESPN for cues on how the pros do it. Stan Van Gundy, the Orlando Magic coach and broadcaster is one of his inspirations and models.
What will he do to avoid a case of the jitters, knowing that thousands of people will be watching him? Yoni says he plans to “not look at the crowd so much” and focus instead on whomever he is interviewing. He has a set of questions he will ask, of course, but doesn’t want to over-prepare.
Yoni is very excited, but doesn’t quite know what to expect. Even though he’s very familiar with Israel, having spent a lot of time at the Jerusalem home of his Savta and Saba, this trip will be a first. After all, not many 5th graders are ready for prime time in two languages.