(JTA) — Basketball star Amar’e Stoudemire made an unlikely move in August, when he retired from the NBA and signed with an Israeli team.
But the 34-year old former New York Knicks center raves about his “adopted homeland” in a recent interview with Sports Illustrated.
“I’ve never felt more at home,” Stoudemire told the reporter over a Shabbat meal during Hanukkah in his Jerusalem home, featuring chicken, lamb, fish — and dreidel spinning.
Stoudemire isn’t Jewish but identifies with the Hebrew Israelites, African-Americans who believe they are connected to the biblical Israelites. He doesn’t eat pork or shellfish — he has even searched Jerusalem for a kosher butcher selling turkey bacon — but Stoudemire thanks Jesus in blessings before eating.
The 6-foot-10 hoopster lives in a four-story house near Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s residence.
“People say ‘Is it a war zone?’ and I tell them that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Stoudemire said in the article. “Beautiful country. Beaches. Desert. Great restaurants. Great people. On the Sabbath it’s so quiet. Everything shuts down for rest, for family time. How nice is that?”
Josefin Dolsten is a former news fellow at the Forward, writing about politics and culture, and editing the Sisterhood blog. She received an MA in Jewish Studies and Comparative Religion from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a BA in Government from Cornell University. Follow her on Twitter at @josefindolsten .
Basketball Star Amar’e Stoudemire ‘Never Felt More at Home’ in Israel