His Facebook page describes Amar'e Stoudemire as Pro Basketball Player, Actor, Author, Producer, Motivational Speaker and Philanthropist. What it doesn't say is that the multi-talented NBA player for the New York Knicks is in Israel in a different capacity – that of assistant coach of the Maccabi Canada basketball team competing in the Maccabiah Games. He's also here to look at Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team of which he's part owner and to visit Kiryat Malachi where a sport through education program that he supports is well under way.
Stoudemire who has founded educational projects in the US, has joined forces with the Hebrew University's Youth Center for Advanced Studies which is dedicated to children from peripheral areas in the country and teaches science and education through sport to youngsters from grades 3-12.
Stoudemire met on Thursday morning with President Shimon Peres, after arriving in Israel the previous day and writing on his Facebook page: "Just touched down in Israel with my brethren." Stoudemire regards himself as a Hebrew of matrilineal descent and has embarked on a conversion process to Judaism. He strongly believes that there is a connection between African studies and Jewish tradition and wants to introduce this as part of the HUYC's study program.. Some of the Kiryat Malachi children enrolled in the HUYC program which combines basketball with physics, specially came to Jerusalem to meet the NBA star at the President's official residence.
Peres who usually greets his guests with a benign smile, literally did a double take when he saw how tall Stoudemire is, and stood back to back with him to compare height. Stoudemire is 2.08 meters tall, and the top of the President's head reaches barely above the hoopster's armpit.
Throughout their conversation Peres remained preoccupied with Stoudemire's height, and told him that in the Bible there is a description of a person like him, who rose head and shoulders above the multitude.
Peres also invited his guest to come and play on the Israeli national basketball team, telling him that he's already achieved so much elsewhere that he may as well come to Israel and do the same here.
Stoudemire is unlikely to take up that invitation, but in response to a reporter's question said he did not know yet whether he would play for Hapoel Jerusalem.
He said that he was appreciative of the fact that the NBA had provided him with a platform from which he could be a role model for youth. He was happy to be able to expand his charity efforts to the Hebrew University "because this allows us to become a positive influence to the world", he said.
Peres, in praise of sport said that contests on the sport field where noone gets killed, were far more preferable to those on the battlefield in which there are always casualties.
Stoudemire will remain in Israel till August 4. His wife and four children are due to arrive in Israel on Sunday.
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