Photo Credit: Courtesy of Athletes for Israel
The Yeshiva University Men’s Basketball Team in Israel

The Yeshiva University Men’s Basketball Team’s January 6-13 solidarity visit to Israel in the aftermath of October 7 has been a sobering experience, report the team’s players and coaches.

“It’s been a rollercoaster,” said Eric Rubin, Global Ambassador for Maccabi World Union and Athletes For Israel (AFI) Advisory Board member. “One minute you’re crying in grief and the next you’re celebrating life.”


The meticulously arranged tour transpired under the auspices of AFI, a non-profit entity steadfast in its commitment to combatting antisemitism and reshaping the narrative surrounding Israel. AFI achieves this mission by orchestrating visits to Israel for athletes, endeavoring to instill a nuanced understanding of the region.

This initiative has proven impactful, as participants actively engage in meaningful pursuits. These endeavors include conducting basketball clinics for children directly affected by recent conflicts, paying visits to wounded soldiers, contributing their time to local centers through volunteering, and culminating in a basketball game held in Jerusalem. The overarching objective of these activities is to introduce a semblance of normalcy into the lives of those grappling with the repercussions of the ongoing conflict.

Daniel Posner, the CEO and Founder of AFI, elucidated the broader significance of these endeavors. He emphasized that the initiative extends beyond the mere act of playing a game, underscoring its pivotal role in fostering solidarity and effecting tangible positive change in the lives of individuals directly impacted by the current conflict. Notably, AFI, under Posner’s leadership, has orchestrated multiple excursions to Israel over the past four years, involving prominent figures from the NBA, NFL, and MLB, as well as collegiate basketball programs.

“Athletes for Israel believes in the power of sports to unite and uplift, and by bringing the Yeshiva University Maccabees to Israel on our Bring Them Home Tour we are doing exactly that, at a time when it matters more than ever,” added Posner. “In leaving the comfort of our homes to be with those who can’t be in their own.”

“We were honored to be able to spend time working with kids displaced by the events of October 7,” said Elliot Steinmetz, Head Coach of Yeshiva University’s Men’s Basketball team. “Basketball is a game – it’s meaningless without further importance. The opportunity to bring positive value to these kids who have suffered is something we could not be prouder to be a part of. We understand the healing power of sports and are eager to contribute to the positive spirit in Israel, especially among the children who have been affected by recent events.”

Legendary former Maccabi Tel Aviv US-born captain Tal Brody chatted with the visiting YU players. / Courtesy of Athletes for Israel

Legendary former Maccabi Tel Aviv captain Tal Brody chatted with the players about why he came to Israel, U.S. Embassy staff presented coach Steinmetz with an official embassy pin, and the team toured the World Jewish Sports Museum.

Then they had a chance to informally mingle with families of displaced evacuees over dinner.

One horrifying memory they will take with them is their visit to the somber exhibition named “06:29,” which recreates the harrowing events of the Nova festival in Re’im using the original stage, discarded tents and clothes, burned-out cars and even the portable latrines in which cowering partygoers were gunned to death.

“It was chilling. I had goosebumps,” said YU hoopster Adi Markovich, 27, who hails from Be’er Sheva and served in the IDF, “before basketball brought me to Yeshiva University. I lost two friends murdered at that party. There are no words to describe what Hamas did. The Nova community has beautiful people – to think something like that would happen to them. No nightmare can express what happened.”

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