Peres Center for Peace: Farmar Checks In From Israel
Posted Aug 6 2008 11:21AM
Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan Farmar, in partnership with the Peres Center for Peace, is hosting basketball clinics for Israeli and Palestinian children in Israel throughout the week. The trip serves as a follow up to Farmarís visit to the Seeds of Peace camp in Maine last week. Seeds of Peace uses sports to bring together Israeli and Palestinian children. The children play different sports together, and discuss the shared problems and challenges in their daily lives.
Farmar checked in with NBA.com and talked about his experience thus far.
Getting Started in Israel
We started today by taking a tour of Jerusalem and the Old City. We saw the Western Wall, the City of David, and the different sections of the Old City; the Christian, Muslim, Jewish and Armenian quarters. Iíve been to Israel before, but Iíve never seen it in such depth and with this perspective. It was cool to get different views, and get this history of Jerusalem and Israel from the start Ė through the different time periods, rulers, religions and cultures that shaped the country.
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 itís 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.
I have strong connections to the area. My dad is black, my mom is white, and my step-dad is from Tel-Aviv. So I grew up in a Jewish household and learned the customs and the religion, and Iíve been to Israel to visit that side of the family. The issue was important to me from the outset because I think I can relate to a bunch of different people. Iím the only Jewish player in the NBA right now so a lot of Jewish people can relate to me. At the same time, when I go through black neighborhoods, I can relate to people there as well, and the same with any other culture that associates with me.
I originally got involved through my agent, Arn Tellem, in a similar program called ďSeeds for PeaceĒ. ďSeeds for PeaceĒ takes place in Maine and brings kids from the conflict area to actually live together, sleep in the same bunks, eat the same food, and most importantly talk about what theyíre going through. Both sides get the chance to hear what the other side is going through, and by the end of the camp many of these children are friends. Then we do a basketball clinic with the participants there.
This year it was brought up to me that we should do this clinic on site, in Israel, with the kids here. Many of them watch TV, see the NBA, see the Lakers, and identify with me because of my background and my ties to the country. So I thought it would be a good thing to do. Iíve gotten a warm welcome all over the country, Iíve been noticed everywhere Iíve been so far. I really canít hide from anyone; they know who I am and what I do in The States. They understand why Iím here and appreciate it, and Iíve been grateful for that.
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 Ė 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 thatís 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 ďthat White Boy can play.Ē 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.
Israel is so historic. Almost every religion is here, and each one believes this is their territory. Jesus Christ walked these streets just as King David did years before, and many other important figures have since. Jerusalem is considered the most holy place in the world because you can look at any religion and find some ties to the region. Iím trying to use basketball to connect all these religions.