Israel's on-court and technical basketball preparations for this week's start of the 2009 EuroBasket tournament were put on hold for a few hours on Friday when the national basketball team visited the Auschwitz concentration camp immediately after arriving in Poland.
Auschwitz death camp.
The national team opens its European Championships campaign against Croatia
, Poland, on Monday, and plays Macedonia a day later before wrapping up its Group A games with an encounter against Greece.
"It is important we make this very difficult visit to Auschwitz," coach Tzvika Sherf said. "Most of the players have never been there. I think it is vital to understand the importance of representing your country.
"We are Jews and Israelis and this country was built by Holocaust survivors and no one should forget what happened. When you play in Poland, it has an additional meaning, a very powerful one."
Sherf, who is entering his eighth European Championships as coach, believes his team is ready.
"The day I'm not excited before a game is the day I will stop coaching," said Sherf. "I've been getting excited for 35 years and I hope this isn't my last championships. We believe we can win every one of the games. If I wasn't optimistic, I wouldn't have made the trip."
Star guard Yotam Halperin
echoed his coach's optimistic sentiments.
"The moment of truth has arrived and we are ready," the Olympiakos shooter proclaimed. "Our goal is to advance past the first round. After that, anything is possible."