After a successful 14-year career in the NBA, Amar’e Stoudemire has found a new home in Jerusalem with basketball club Hapoel Jerusalem. Unlike many stars who ride out their playing days in the NBA limelight, Stoudemire chose to play in Jerusalem due to the city’s spirituality. Stoudemire, who self-identifies as a Hebrew Israelite, (a Jewish tribe that was exiled from the ancient kingdom of Judah,) embraces parts of Judaism like abstention from pork and shellfish, and celebration of Shabbat dinners. Stoudemire first encountered Israel and its culture on a trip in 2010, and it clearly made an impact on him. Amar’e and his wife Alexis are making the most of their Israel experience, taking bi-weekly Hebrew lessons and visiting Israel’s historic sites. At seven feet tall with dark skin, Stoudemire makes for an uncommon Jew. Stoudemire feared that this unlikely mix of ethnicity and religion would make him an outcast, so he kept his Judaism to himself for the last 10 years. Now in Israel, Amar’e feels that he can finally express himself spiritually and religiously.
The six-time NBA All-Star has fully immersed himself in Israeli society, and has been seen posing with celebrity Jeremy Piven and getting involved in the Israeli art scene. Also, Amar’e and Alexis, along with their four children, recently purchased a four-story house in an upscale part of Jerusalem, signaling that they will be Jerusalem for the foreseeable future.
His two-year contract with Hapoel, starting with the 2016-2017 season, began with Hapoel winning the Winner Cup Preseason Tournament, as well as the State Cup. Stoudemire grew up in Florida, and had a successful high school career before declaring for the NBA draft. After 14 years in the NBA, predominantly with the Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks, the former rookie of the year is only averaging 9.3 points per game this season. However, the experience and knowledge of the game that he can pass on to the younger players is an intangible that will continue to improve coach Simone Pianigiani’s young Hapoel team. As Stoudemire’s basketball career comes to an end, his spiritual journey is just beginning. “I want to be in Jerusalem because it is a holy place,” said Amar’e to the New York Post. He also says that he wants to change misconceptions about Israel. “People have this misconception of Israel as dangerous, and I hope I can help change it.”
Contributed by Charlie Kramer, CAMERA intern