Posted October 24th, 2012
By Alex Willick, Otzma
This is what I’m doing for my first three months in Israel. I’m an assistant coach for the middle school’s basketball team in the town in which I live (Karmi’el). How I wound up in this position is a funny story in itself.
Within the first week of my moving to Karmi’el, I met the Mayor, Adi Eldar. I spoke with him briefly about sports and Karmi’el’s awful 3rd Division Soccer team, but I also mentioned I was interested in becoming involved in youth sports in town.
He immediately had his assistant write down a number for me to call the next day, and after having my translator (the director of the immigrant absorption center where I live) speak to the head of youth sports, I was connected with the head basketball coach for all the schools here. He was happy to have an assistant (an exotic American one, no less), and welcomed me at practice the following day.
It has been 6 weeks since I began at the school, and I feel incredibly blessed that I’ve wound up here. I may not be an especially talented basketball player in the States, but here, I’m absolutely qualified to coach. My soccer skills, however, have some room for improvement in the eyes of the Middle Easterners.
The kids love having an American around to joke around with and to show off their NBA gear. Seriously, they love the NBA. If they’re not wearing their team jersey, they’re sporting LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, or even the classics (check out Michael Jordan, standing, fourth from the left).
And I benefit by having 18 little Israeli midgets that don’t care that my Hebrew is elementary and are happy to teach me along the way. I’ve learned some vocabulary that I never thought I would need. For example, l’cadrer (to dribble).
Serving Israeli society has proven rewarding and incredibly fun.
A bona fide child of the Tri-State Area, Alex Willick was born in Bergen County, NJ, raised in Westport, Connecticut, and subsequently lived in New York City. He graduated from Colgate University in 2009, where he studied music and philosophy, both of which continue to be passionate areas of study. He has spent the last few years working for the Jewish community in New York City, including a year and a half at UJA-Federation of New York and some time at Heeb Magazine.
Since the summer of 2011, Alex has been living in Israel as a member of Project Otzma, and he is happy to have the opportunity to live and serve with the people he loves, in the country he loves. After a year of living in places that tourists rarely have the opportunity to visit, he cannot wait to be back and making Israel an even greater part of his identity. In August, 2012, he will be beginning his graduate studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City, and will be a candidate for a Master’s in Jewish Experiential Education with a specialty in Israel Education in 2014.
Alex is also a musician, writer, and photographer, and his blog can be found at AriInIsrael.tumblr.com.