AMONG THE many people gathered on the lawn at the residence of Australian Ambassador Designate Dave Sharma last week were Baruch Ben-David and Jonathan Goldberg. Ben-David was the Israeli athlete who pulled Australian athlete Jonathan Goldberg out of the polluted waters of the Yarkon River following the disastrous bridge collapse at the opening of the 1997 Maccabiah Games in which four members of the Australian team lost their lives. Ben-David subsequently flew to Australia to attend Goldberg’s wedding. Goldberg is back in Israel with the 416-strong Australian Maccabiah team.WHILE CULTURE and Sports Minister Limor Livnat has been busy trying to unseat Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon on the grounds of conflict of interest, the management of the Israel Basketball Association has asked acting chairman of the IBA Shimon Mizrahi to defer his letter of resignation until after the European Championships, due to take place in Slovenia in September.Mizrahi, who has been chairman of the Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club since 1969, took over as interim chairman of the IBA after chairman Avner Kopel resigned earlier this year. Keenly aware of his own conflict of interests, Mizrahi set stringent rules for himself while in the temporary position and was all set to leave this week, when pressed to stay at the helm for just another two or three months. It’s nice to be popular.NEARLY ALL the major newspapers in Israel last Friday featured NBA hoopster Amar’e Stoudemire standing back to back with President Shimon Peres to demonstrate the difference in their height. Peres is considerably shorter than Stoudemire, who is 2.8 meters tall. His Facebook page describes Stoudemire as a pro basketball player, actor, author, producer, motivational speaker and philanthropist. What it doesn’t say is that the multitalented 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 the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team of which he’s part owner and to visit Kiryat Malachi, where a sports-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 and teaches science education through sports to youngsters from grades three to 12.When Stoudemire arrived at the President’s Residence last Thursday, four of the Kiryat Malachi youngsters from the Amit Harel School who are enrolled in the HUYC program were waiting for him. They sat in on his conversation with Peres and later posed for photos with the easy-going Stoudemire, who has four children.Stoudemire met with Peres and the youngsters from Kiryat Malachi after arriving in Israel the previous day and writing on his Facebook page “Just touched down in Israel with my brethren.” He regards himself as a Hebrew of matrilineal descent and has embarked on a conversion process to Judaism. He strongly believes there is a connection between African studies and Jewish tradition and wants to introduce this as part of the HUYC’s study program, which with regard to the Kiryat Malachi children combines basketball with physics. Peres invited Stoudemire to join the Israeli national basketball team. The athlete is unlikely to take up that invitation, but in response to a reporter’s question, he said he did not know yet whether he would play for Hapoel Jerusalem. He said he appreciated the fact that the NBA had provided him with a platform from which he could be a role model for youth. He said 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.”Peres, in praise of sports, said that contests on the sports field where no one gets killed were far preferable to those on the battlefield in which there are always casualties.Stoudemire, whose wife and children arrived here last Sunday, will remain in Israel until August 4.SEVERAL MAYORS who had planned to run for reelection are unlikely to do so because legal authorities won’t let them. As a result of a court order in light of corruption allegations about him, long-serving Ramat Gan Mayor Zvi Bar will not be in the race this time around. Following on that, the Movement for Quality Government has petitioned the High Court to disqualify Upper Nazareth Mayor Shimon Gapso from running for reelection because he has been indicted for bribery, fraud and other categories of corruption. Gapso’s name has also appeared in media reports on racism, and he is known to have adopted negative policies with regard to the Arab population of Upper Nazareth.There are at least half a dozen mayoral candidates from other municipalities who face possible indictment over the next few months, so there could be some major changes in the Union of Local Authorities as a result of changes in local councils.Among the new faces standing for election is that of popular singer Benny Elbaz, a favorite at celebrations of members of Shas. Elbaz is running for mayor of Be’er Ya’acov.He is not the first entertainer to run for local government. In 1993, Yehoram Gaon won a seat on the Jerusalem City Council. Actor and comedian Shmuel Vilozny won a seat on the Tel Aviv City Council in 1989, and in 1998 he failed in his bid for mayor, but his faction won two council seats. Actress Gila Almagor currently holds the culture portfolio on the Tel Aviv City Council.