Multicultural Israeli teens bond through tennis exhibitions

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Four Israeli teens of different cultural backgrounds joined former Israeli Davis Cup tennis player Andy Ram in demonstrating their tennis skills on the court at nine tennis fundraising tennis exhibitions that have taken place in South Florida in March in support of the Israel Tennis Centers organization.

One more exhibition is scheduled for March 14 at 5 p.m. at St. Andrews County Club, 21626 St. Andrews Blvd. in Boca Raton.

The four teens are raising funds for the network of 14 Israel Tennis Centers programs in Israel that bond more than 20,000 children, many who are second generation immigrants of Israel, by playing tennis.

“We can all speak different languages, look different and eat different foods, but it does not matter when we come to the tennis court. Tennis is the way for many of the children to make friends and learn more than how to hit the right shots to beat their opponents,” said Ram, who is guiding the teens and their coach at many of the South Florida ITC tennis exhibitions.

Ram is the only Israeli to have won a Grand Slam doubles tournament ( Australian Open ) and the only Israeli to have won the Miami Open doubles tournament in 2009.

Programs of the ITC, such as the Coexistence Program teach the importance of tolerance and understanding by having fun through competing and playing tennis.

The four teens (only first names published for security reasons) Daniel (raised in a kibbutz near Lebanon), Jennifer ( a Nigerian mother), Jessica (parents are from the former Soviet Union), and Orel (parents are from Ethiopia) all have distinct backgrounds but come together to play in spirited tennis matches that always end in handshakes and hugs.

“The ITC program is a wonderful recipe for success and I am so impressed by the high quality of the teens who leaned how to bond through tennis,” said Marty Ross, who recruited hundreds of people to see the four Israeli teens play recently at the Wycliffe Country Club in Wellington.

The Israeli teens also participated with Ram at tennis exhibitions at Addison County Club in Delray Beach, Boca Raton Resort, Boca West, and Woodfield Country Club in Boca Raton, Frenchman’s Creek in Palm Beach Gardens and The Gables Club in Coral Gables.

Some of the young children who learned the values of friendship through playing tennis at the ITC also developed their skills in becoming top professional players, such as Dudi Sela , Israel’s top singles player, who competed last month at the Delray Beach Open tournament in Delray Beach.

“I did not initially go to the Israel Tennis Centers to become a professional player, but I leaned how to make friends and then I became better and better at tennis through the years,” said Sela.

Israeli born 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, a pro player ranked in the top 40, had his mother, a former Soviet Jew who was an ITC coach, teach him tennis.

“I know how important the ITC is for the youngsters of Israel and was happy to participate in the ITC exhibition in Toronto,” said Shapovalov.

Shapovalov defeated three opponents to finish as a semi-finalist at the Delray Beach Open last month.

Sela, Shapovalov and four more Jewish tennis players will compete at the Miami Open tennis tournament March 19-April 1 at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne. For tickets and more information, call 305-442-3367 or go to www.miamiopen.com.

For more information on the exhibitions and programs of the Israel Tennis Centers Foundation, 3275 W. Hillsboro Blvd. in Deerfield Beach, call 954-480-6333 or go to www.israeltenniscenters.org.



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