Photo Credit: Gali Tibbon / Courtesy of America’s Voices in Israel
NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen surrounded by Arab and Jewish girls at the Jerusalem YMCA, May 17, 2022

NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen concluded a week-long visit to Israel Tuesday with a special basketball training session that included Arab and Jewish girls in Jerusalem.

Considered one of the greatest three-point shooters of all time, Allen played 18 seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in September 2018. Between 1996 and 2014, he played for the Milwaukee Bucks, Seattle SuperSonics, Boston Celtics, and Miami Heat, primarily as a shooting guard, and was on two championship teams.

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A guest of David and Jason Arison and the Ted Arison Foundation, as well as America’s Voices in Israel and Athletes for Israel, the renowned basketball player who serves on the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, came to Israel to tour and experience historic and cultural sites in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and the Galilee. He was joined by former Chicago Bulls player Scott Burrell.

Allen used his visit to meet and train with aspiring young basketball players across the country, concluding his trip with a special meeting at the YMCA in Jerusalem, where he led young Jewish and Arab girls in a special training session, part of the Peace Players Middle East program.

Irwin Katsof, Director of America’s Voices in Israel, explained that the former NBA stars were the first in a string of celebrities his group will be hosting after the Corona pandemic. “There are so many important voices that want to come and learn more about Israel, and when they do, they see first-hand the complex realities on the ground and gain an appreciation for the wonderful achievements and initiatives going on in Israel every day, often away from the headlines,” Katsof said.

The event on Sunday saw Allen train some 50 young Jewish and Arab girls who participate in the Peace Players Middle East basketball program hosted at the YMCA in Jerusalem.

Karen Doubilet, Executive Director of Peace Players Global, said her group was “an international organization that uses basketball to promote understanding in communities where there is division and tension.”

She added, “At Peace Players Middle East, we understand that it is often unusual for Arabs and Jewish girls to meet in Jerusalem today. This is the only mixed basketball project bringing together Jews and Arabs to play together, helping developing leaders and bridging divides.”

Ray Allen told the girls: “You remind me of myself at your age, holding the basketball in my hands, and wanting to succeed, to get involved. As a child, I lived all over the world as my dad was in the air force, and I always wanted to fit in. Every place I traveled to I played basketball. I didn’t know anyone but wherever I played, I would make friends.”

He held up a basketball and asked, “Do you all believe this thing is magical? This thing will take you all around the world,” and added, “I can’t imagine what you go through every day, but the thing I learned is that friendships I built because of basketball stayed friends for life. Take basketball, use basketball, to allow you to change the world.”

Allen is married to singer/actress Shannon Walker Williams and they have three sons and one daughter.

David Arison said, “This is a unique opportunity to meet such accomplished NBA athletes, one of the hardest-working players. Some of us will be basketball players, and some of us will do other things in life but hard work is the lesson. Whatever we want to achieve we can learn so much from Ray, and the example he has set.”

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.