Israeli Hoops Star Finds Relief on Court

No Worries About Home When Naama Shafir's Playing Ball

By Elliot Olshansky

Published December 01, 2012.
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“Obviously, I talk to my family and friends, and people I know at home,” Shafir said. “They always say it sounds a lot worse when you’re not there, so that makes me feel a little bit better.”

Still, an American college campus is rarely quiet when fighting breaks out in the Middle East, and as a prominent campus figure who comes from Israel, Shafir could easily be subjected to harsh remarks from her classmates. However, Shafir reports that that has not been the case at Toledo, where her classmates tend to ask questions more than anything else.

“Most people that ask me about it just ask about my family, how everybody’s doing” Shafir said. “I don’t really go into detail and say my opinion, but if people ask, I just try to explain. People listen to the media, and usually, that’s what they believe in, so I just try to bring the other side.”

Shafir is also surrounded by teammates who have been to Israel, as the Rockets visited the country on a 10-day playing tour in the summer of 2011. That experience has lent the Toledo team a better understanding of the realities of life in Israel, and the locker room has been a supportive environment.

“I’m glad that they had the opportunity to be there and see that Israel is not just about that,” Shafir said. “They’re in shock sometimes, saying ‘I can’t believe we were there two years ago and it was just fine. They also ask me about my family, but they’ve been there and they loved it and they had a really good time.”

These days, the good times are on the court for Shafir and Toledo. The team will host the Glass City Tournament this weekend, taking on SIU-Edwardsville on Saturday and either Southern or St. Bonaventure on Sunday (Shafir does play on Shabbat, but attends services and walks to the arena). Whether Shafir and her teammates will be able to keep their hot start going is uncertain, but there’s no doubt that the games will offer an important release for Shafir, and two hours not to think about what’s happening on the other side of the globe.

“You don’t have to worry about other things,” Shafir said of stepping on the court. “I’m not worried too much. I always talk to my family. But basketball helps even more.”


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