Basketball camp began Monday for the Israeli and Palestinian kids in Kiryat Gat. Their trainer was Jordan Farmar, former Bruin star, back-up Lakers point guard and Jewish all-star. Farmar announced last month he would make this pilgrimage, which is rooted in his interest in facilitating coexistence and will include some meetings on behalf of Seeds for Peace after basketball camp ends Aug. 11.
Farmar checks in with NBA.com with this dispatch, in which he sounds more like a dignitary on a delegation than an emissary:
“The camp is located about an hour and a half outside of Jerusalem. I worked with kids, mostly age eight through 12, of all different cultures. I saw Palestinian kids and Israeli kids, along with kids of other backgrounds, play together on the same team, do drills together, and just get along, which was real cool. Basketball is a vehicle to accomplish these things. Sometimes it’s really hard to get Israelis and Palestinians and Jordanians and Arabs in general talking. So to even get them in the same place, having fun with one another and making friends is a crucial start.
“So far, the highlight from the camp has been seeing these young people of different cultures come together, even though others around them, at home, are in conflict. In previous years, when I went to Maine, I heard how rough it was for many of the children and their families – many of which live in ghettos or tough neighborhoods. Now, I have the chance to see these areas, and witness kids of Palestinian background come together and play ball with their peers from Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem, and that’s been really gratifying.
“And I know that sports make it easier for people to unify. When I was younger I would go to the park with friends from the black side of my family, a lot of kids would say “that White Boy can play.” But once I stepped on the court, the fact that I appeared white was thrown out of the window. Basketball can bridge gaps like that, because if you play the right way you can be teammates and work together with anyone; no matter what language they speak or with which culture they identify.”
In this report and an article from the Jerusalem Post, Farmar talks a lot about how his multi-etnic background—black father, white Jewish mother, Israeli step-father—helps him relate with people of all colors and creeds. But, from the following quote, it’s not clear sports would be the solution to conflict in the Middle East:
“No matter where you live or what’s going on, people like sports. People riot for their sports teams and go out all night. It’s important for us to reach out to those who have a connection to it.”
Yeah, sports are a great way to break down barriers. But I don’t think we need any more rioting over there.