I was moved to read the below letter Eden, our 11 year old daughter, the youngest of three daughters received by the Lev Basketball Club in Jerusalem. It reads "We are happy to invite the basketball player Eden Messinas to an experimental training of the Lev Basketball Club, Jerusalem. The girls in training were thoroughly picked from throughout Jerusalem. The training is professional, led by top coaches and active professional players."
"Yes," I told Eden "for sure you may go," and yesterday past her school she walked to Jerusalem's new YMCA sports facility center along with her close friend Alma and took part in what was for her a learning and empowering experience. Most importantly though, it was a corrective experience as it came to reverse the bad emotional taste she was left with a year earlier from being the only girl in her school's basketball team.
We had supported Eden in joining the school's basketball team then, thinking she would manage to acclimatize in the boys only environment, but as time went by we witnessed her growing frustration; the boys would pass the ball primarily to other boys. Even though Eden was present at the court, she was yet excluded from the game. Eventually, by the end of that year Eden dropped out of the school's basketball team.
I had reported Eden's complaint on the issue to the school's Gender Committee. Pointing a finger and voicing what did not work was in my mind helpful for all concerned: Eden, our family and the system. Unless we mothers take responsibility for what doesn't work for us and our daughters and make it loud and clear for all to hear, things won't move in the right direction.
I loved basket-ball too as a girl growing up in Athens, Greece and used to play it at my school, Athens College.
Thanks to Maria Moira a 16 year old basket-ball player who is a close friend of my eldest daughter Maya, we heard that there was a summer girls' league on the island of Aegina, Greece where we vacation. Our three daughters Maya, Noa and Eden and two nieces Iris and Melissa who spend the summer together on the island joined the team's ranks. They would complain about getting up three times a week at 7:30 in the morning to make it to the downtown court at 8am but when we would pick them up at 10am they would be fully awake, fully alive, and fully happy with getting the ball rolling. We are thankful to the Panaginaikos girls' team coach who took the girls on board even though their prior experience with the sport was minimal, taught the girls the basics and ignited in them the love and right attitude for the sport. The girls trained three times a week, during the month of August and at the very last training, they all went for a swim past the game, as a festive closure to the course! And the girls loved it all.
"So who are the girls in your basketball league?" I asked Eden. "We have girls who speak Arabic in our team" Eden told me in pride knowing that I love opportunities for Jerusalem's Arab and Jewish populations to mix. "Good for you" I responded, "all the better of an experience, all the richer it will make your basket-ball training."
And that is one thing I love about Jerusalem, sports are an opportunity for our different communities to blend, mix and forge relations and a sense of closeness and camaraderie that you don't find so much of outside the court.
I am also thrilled that our 11 year old daughter is sensing her inner compass which directs her to what is right for her. Eden has the skill of fine tuning her life, moving towards what feels right for her and distancing herself from what feels wrong.I sense that her renewed engagement in basketball and that of her fellow team players will further strengthen the girls' inner compasses towards wellness in body and spirit as well as towards a natural cooperation among them; and yes that is what Jerusalem Girl Power is all about.