Shahar Pe'er joins the IDF

Pe'er, one of the world's 50 best woman tennis players, was closely followed by the press.

shahar peer 298.88 (photo credit: )
shahar peer 298.88
(photo credit: )
In an event that she described as more exciting than playing Maria Sharapova, tennis star Shahar Pe'er was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces bright and early Sunday morning. The 18-year-old's appearance at the IDF Induction Center at Tel Hashomer outside Tel Aviv created quite a stir, with the IDF spokeswoman assigned to the event commenting that even the Chief of Staff's visits don't receive as much press attention. And she wasn't exaggerating, as representatives from just about every Israeli TV and radio station, newspaper and Web site had someone on hand to record Pe'er's first moments in uniform. In fact, the Israeli media wasn't alone. Kelly Green, an American documentary filmmaker, flew in to spend Pe'er's first week in the army with her for an episode of the Women's Tennis Association's Real Life on the WTA Tour monthly television magazine. Pe'er's father, Dovik, made the arrangements for Green to accompany Pe'er through four days of her three-week basic training for the episode, which will be aired in early 2006. Green was unaware of any other athlete of Pe'er's stature (she's currently ranked 47th in the world) who was drafted into the military, even though it's common practice in Israel. He said the decision to make the film came because the player "doing her her duty for her country" and "what she feels is important" is a compelling story overseas. Of course Pe'er's service will still allow her to continue her promising career. The Maccabim resident received "outstanding athlete" status, which the IDF grants every year to a limited number of athletes. The status will allow her to continue training full-time and to compete in a pre-determined amount of tournaments overseas during her two-year military stint. After a scheduled three-week basic training, Pe'er will be assigned to a unit in the center of the country, where she will be given a role that she can work in for several hours a week when she is in the country. Pe'er, whose day began with a 6 a.m. training session with coach Amos Mansdorf, said that she hopes she will be able to continue her tennis training during basic training, but was otherwise looking forward to the experience. "I'll serve two years like everyone and I hope to enjoy the experience," said Pe'er, who remained remarkably calm throughout her long morning. When asked about going in alone and having to start over in a new setting, Pe'er replied, "I meet a lot of people all the time traveling abroad, but the army is something different... I'm very excited to meet new girls and get out of my bubble and I believe that in the end I'll have fun." Though Shahar remained cool, her mother Aliza was clearly emotional about sending her youngest child to the army, but also felt it was important. "We wanted Shahar to get drafted and be a soldier like everyone else. I don't think she'll have a hard time... it'll be good for her to make new friends." Some two hours after she disappeared behind the Tel Hashomer gates, a somewhat confused looking Pe'er was escorted to the press for her first pictures in uniform. She took orders from the photographers and posed by a tank and a draft board notice, saluted and then waved goodbye, heading off for whatever experience the IDF has planned.