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Stoudemire, who visited Israel shortly after signing with the Knicks three years ago, could not pinpoint his specific biblical observances, but he indicated that he strove to live an ethical and meaningful life.
Nor had he read up on Israel or Judaism in advance of this trip. But he does show off his Jewish symbols: a Star of David tattoo on his left thumb and a diamond YHWH charm spelling out God’s unspoken name on his gold necklace.
He has been influenced on his spiritual path by his parents, who he says are “both Hebrew.”
Stoudemire had already shaken off the Canadian team’s difficult journey to Israel. Its plane was delayed for three hours at the Toronto airport and, upon reaching Israel, circled several times because an emergency landing at Ben Gurion Airport had blocked a runway. Eventually the plane was diverted to Cyprus, landing in Israel five hours late.
That evening, the bus to the team’s first practice came an hour and a half late. Afterward, Stoudemire gathered his trainer and security men for a taxi ride to the Old City, where they ducked into King David’s Tomb and viewed the Western Wall.
Stoudemire said he “absolutely” feels a personal connection to Israelis and to Jews, although he’s unsure about the connection’s genealogical basis. In 2010, he indicated that his mother’s side of the family had Jewish roots.
“Through DNA, you can prove the Hebrew tribe,” he said.
“I studied history,” he added. “History helps to line things up for you. Just reading the Scriptures gives you an insight into what the history is. It gives you a good enlightenment into everything. … You understand certain customs and how to live. The Jewish culture has been able to somewhat embody the Scriptures.”
In New York, Stoudemire has held discussions on Judaism with local rabbis, whom he declined to name. He said the talks have been informative.
“I study Torah all the time,” Stoudemire said. “We study the Tanach. Our family celebrates all the High Holy Days. We’re definitely all in, and we’re Jewish. I had a Hebraic wedding in New York, so I’m definitely Jewish.”
But coming to Israel, he continued, is more about working with his players than his own spiritual journey.