In 2010, PeacePlayers created the All Star program – something that has never been done before in girls’ basketball in Jerusalem. The All Star program fully integrated Palestinian and Israeli basketball players into a single team to play competitively across the country in the Israel Basketball Association Youth League.
Essentially, by taking the concept of a ‘Twinning’ and making it into a full time pursuit, PeacePlayers is enabling Israeli and Palestinian players to practice and play competitively together. Currently, PeacePlayers has four All Star teams with three in Jerusalem and one in the North for Tamra and Nahariya players.
This year the All Stars teams are doing extremely well and the teams have set some big goals for themselves.
So far the Jerusalem All Star team in the Under 16 league has won every single game! Both the Under-18 and Under-16 teams are coached by Rifka Ross and they even practice together. Rifka believes in the power of role models and believes the girls, both old and young, have a lot to learn from each other. In the end, practicing together builds a sense of comradery. Being a part of an All Star team requires a huge time commitment from the participants. The players practice about three times a week, along with one game per week. Rifka appreciates the girls’ sacrifices to be on the team, “They really want to be the best that they can be. They give up so much to be on the court. Some of the players gave up playing another sport to be a part of the team.”
The girls are goal-oriented as well. They have set the ultimate goal for themselves: to be the champions of the Under-16 and Under-18 league! The Jerusalem Under 16 team is well on its way, with a recent win qualifying them, to the Israeli cup semifinals! In 2014, the Jerusalem Under-18 team took the championship in their division and we hope the same goes for the teams this year as well!
In the North, we have a new All Star team with Tamra/Nahariya players. The team is also in the Under-16 league and has done very well! As a new team, there is a lot to overcome. The girls are getting the chance to know each other better and are getting used to playing competitively. Before the start of this All Star team, the two teams, Tamra and Nahariya, were only Twinning partners. The All Stars teams are doing more than just bridging divides within the team. By showing the crowd and their opponents that Palestinians and Israelis can play together and win, the girls are helping shape new ideas about the ‘other’. We wish them good luck this year and we are proud of what all the All Star teams have accomplished so far!