It is often said that no news is good news.
Not in this case.
September 16, the 3rd World Deaf Basketball Championships will get underway in
Palermo, Italy, and once more the Israel national team has been forced to beg
for money in order to represent the country that shamelessly fails to fund
It was just over three years ago that the plight of the Israel deaf
team was recounted in this very space and it seems as if nothing has changed
Emergency donations ensured that the team could take part in
the 9th European Championships in Germany in June 2008, with Clalit Health
Services even agreeing to sponsor the team to the sum of NIS
However, with the country’s sporting establishment granting the
Israel Deaf Sport Organization, which oversees all deaf sports, a meager budget
of NIS 144,000 a year there was never going to be any chance that the basketball
team would be able to afford the trip to the World Championships, which is
estimated at around NIS 74,000.
A recent contribution of basketballs will
save the team a couple of thousand shekels, but Doron Kramer’s side is still
trying to figure out a way to buy the game and training jerseys it needs, not to
mention raising the NIS 46,000 it requires to pay its hotel bill in
“We have become beggars. Every year we have to beg for money
from private people and businesses,” Kramer told me earlier this week. “We are
one month away from the start of the World Championships and we are without
basic things like training jerseys. People are working very hard to try and
raise money, but we still need a significant amount.
“We are an Israel
national team and we have to beg for donations.
It’s the same story every
After working as an assistant to previous coach Robi Balinko,
Kramer became the team’s head coach during the Deaflympics in Taiwan two years
Balinko had to return to Israel for health reasons midway through
the competition and Kramer guided the team to a last-second upset victory over
Ukraine in the quarterfinals that eventually resulted in Israel ending the event
in a record fourth position.
After a 20-year playing career, 17 of them
in the National League, Kramer retired last summer and currently splits his time
between coaching Elitzur Netanya’s youth team and working as the Athletic
Director of the American International School in Israel.
However, he also
finds the time to coach the deaf team four times a week, recognizing the
importance of helping the less fortunate members of society.
never really understand what it’s like for a deaf person to play basketball. But
I think that the biggest compliment I can give them is that I treat them just
the same as I do hearing players,” he said.
“Small things in practice
that you don’t even think about when you are training a regular team turn into
something complicated with deaf players because everything has to be translated
“When I took the job I demanded to receive sign language
lessons because I saw how the American team was run in the Deaflympics in Taiwan
and how they communicated almost exclusively through sign language.
an unbelievable experience. It puts everything else into
“You just have to admire these people that overcome this
disability and sustain a normal lifestyle.”
Each player had to fork out
more than NIS 2,000 of his own money to take part in the 2007 World
Championships in China, where the Israeli deaf team finished
Kramer is desperate to avoid a similar scenario, but he admitted
that there may not be any other option.
“I’ve asked not to mention it to
the players because it would break up the team,” he said. “Players would simply
stop coming to training.
As it is, they are all volunteering and some of
them have to pay for their journeys from Beersheba and Arad to get to training
Any way you look at it, there is no excuse for the trials and
tribulations Israel’s top deaf basketball players undergo every time they want
to represent their country with honor in international competition.
appalling manner in which the sporting establishment disregards the deaf is a
true mark of disgrace on Israel, and if experience has taught us anything,
there’s little reason to expect any change in the near
Nevertheless, Kramer is optimistic that, some way or another, the
team will find a way to play in the World Championships and he is even hopeful
that the recent protests for social justice will bring about a long-overdue
improvement in the way his side is treated.
“These are times when there
is a sense of change in the air. I think that we can add this issue to all that
is going on,” he said.
“There’s a feeling that the order of priorities is
about to change and the way we treat the weaker parts of society must be
addressed. I really hope that we are part of this revolution.”For more
information/contributions, please contact the Israel Deaf Sport Organization
directly at Israel@ciss.org firstname.lastname@example.org