Basketball legend Shimon Amsalem doesn't let the massacre in Sderot break him, and he has a message for Dodi Amsalem

A year and a half ago, Shimon Amsalem sold his printing house, which he owned for 22 years in his hometown, Sderot. Shimon's printing house was much more than a business. His father David was already ill in those days, and since Shimon wanted to earn some more quality time with his father before it was all over, he decided that the small printing house, which produced stickers and employed only Sderot residents, would also be a source of income for his wife and children, and above all a good excuse to go down to the city at least three times a week, to have lunch with his father: "It was a factory that at its peak employed ten workers, and I made a little profit from it, but the truth is that I wanted to enjoy more of my father, and I kept the factory in the industrial area. We would also eat kasamim here. I would go to get something from the car, and suddenly it would fly Far from me is a pipe from Gaza. We knew how to escape, we had no other place, we swallowed a lot all these years, some people left."

It is not clear how Shimon, 2.04 meters tall, was born from Aliza and David Amsalam, and when I ask him if there was any genetics of giants in the family in Morocco, he chuckles and answers no. His parents were of average height, but his four sisters are huge, around 1.80 meters, and his eldest, Jordan (31, an analyst at a stock exchange company in Miami), stands 1.85 meters tall. The middle one Yuval (27, a biotechnology engineer) is also tall, and closes Hiloda Lotan, 22, today a basketball player at Hapoel Galil Alyion, who reached 2 meters.

We are sitting in a cafe in the northern Tel Aviv neighborhood where Amsalem lives, but he remains a patriot of Sderot, and the media image attached to the city annoys him: "No matter what – always to get a local mood, the media goes to that disgruntled grocer sitting at the entrance to the store, or to some Anger about the irons is not far away. I'm angry that these extremists don't understand what this section is, and today everyone who doesn't think about it – is there, an industrial area of elite , a barn, any kind you want. A lively city with concerts and sports and annual races."

But since the Saturday of October 7, when vans loaded with Hamas murders invaded the streets so familiar to Shimon, the city has been emptied of its people, who were scattered everywhere saving lives, and has remained hurt, pained and bleeding. The charismatic and angry mayor, Alon Davidi, is interviewed by every microphone and announces that he will not allow the prime minister and his ministers to carry out their plan to return the residents home, as long as the war in Gaza is not over. And even though Sderot and Davidi have not been sleeping properly at night for more than 20 years because of the never-ending disengagement from Gaza, Prime Minister Netanyahu is a revered figure in the city, and the Likud party sweeps an average of 50% of the vote in every election. Amsalem tries to explain: "I don't judge anyone. There will always be those who will blame, but when I get on the field, I will never complain. People don't understand why the right has such a strong hold in the south. First of all, these are people who have pride in who they are. No Lovers who are condescending to them or to be told what to do. They will come to their own conclusions. This is pride, as opposed to arrogance, they will not decide."

In the next election will Netanyahu win in Sderot again?
"I can't tell. Take Amir Peretz. A resident of Sderot who never left, ate kasamim here, comes from Morocco. When he was mayor, he changed the city for the better. During his time – Sderot was in the top 3% of the national ranking Upon reaching the matriculation certificate, but when he ran as chairman of the Labor Party – the party received 5-6% in Sderot."

Let me surprise you. Labor received with Amir Peretz in Sderot 25%, the most in the city. The Likud dropped to 10%, less than the MDF.
"Wow, you surprised me. This is not my first mistake in life. But it just proves that authentic representatives of the south will always receive the trust of the voters."

Sderot has been eating missiles for 20 years and more, but its residents do not complain to Likud and the Prime Minister.
"You're asking me how that can be? There are people who don't mind. They have cars and they go abroad once or twice a year. The industrial areas in Sderot are blown up, ten thousand students study in Sapir, and the matriculation rates are high. People are doing well in both the secular and religious neighborhoods. I think that this behavior on election day ultimately comes from anger at what happened to their parents."

Do you believe it today?
"Ashkenazim-Spadi? Hahahaha, it's dead, my brother. It never represented me and my family. In my life with my mother and father, they never talked about it at home. There was no such discourse. We grew up in the working and studying youth. My father would not go to the house Knesset. I, who completed the minyan by the age of 18, took it on my own initiative."

But look at minister David Amsalem, he lives and breathes it.
"I don't like David Amsalem's style. By the way, my father was also called David Amsalem. I and the people here do not want to see this disgust in the country. I ask Amsalem, how does this help us, how does it advance us as a nation? This is also a wake-up call I see and hear, especially now, after the nightmare of that Saturday, so many stories about people giving everything, their time and money, to save and help the soldiers and everyone who was left without a home after October 7. I've been going around funerals for three months now , busy organizing fire for soldiers from bases that were broken into by terrorists. I almost gave up on what happened here, but then you see what an amazing, smart and contributing people, and they rise up every time."

Did you feel about yourself what you said before, that some people do not forgive past feelings?
"I came to Tel Aviv from Sderot at the age of 18, and at the age of 21 I was the captain of the whitest team in Israel, the most institutional, the most like Mapai, Rabin and Peres. I, the boy Shimon Amsalam from Sderot, captain of the flag team. This Mizrahi-Ashkenazi talk will never lead me."

דודי אמסלם (צילום: רמי זרנגר)
Dodi Amsalem (Photo: Rami Zarnagar)

Shimon's childhood in Sderot was in the 1960s and 1970s. He spent a lot of time at Zikim Beach, a few hundred meters from Gaza. He remembers the trips with his parents in Gaza to this day: "We bought my first tennis racket there. We bought my first guitar there. I remember my parents drinking coffee on the beach in Gaza. They would buy fish and fruit in the market. The easiest thing in the world. There was no Afraid to turn around." He remembers a happy childhood on Saturdays, when he would hang out with the guys in the area of Eric Sharon's sycamore farm: "There was a small stream like this in the forest, and we would eat grapes, figs and sabers. Lily Sharon would come with an ATV and sit with us. It was a kind of innocence and a good childhood. Sderot was a settlement of 6,000 residents then, everyone knows everyone."

And how was the relationship between you and the kibbutzim of the Western Negev?
"Good. There were some from the kibbutzim who studied with us in Sderot, and there was cooperation between the settlements. I didn't feel a gap between me and them."

He again mentions his father: "He drilled oil in the extraction. He worked very hard. Seven days at work and three days at home. I remember that my father was missing from home. He is a kind of revered and distant figure, right up until his retirement. My mother worked at home and later as a gardener. He He passed away 14 years ago. I think about this gap between my father and David Amsalem the politician, but you want to hear something?

When he was 17 years old, Amsalem was the basketball star of Hapoel Shaar Hanegev. Israel Lev was his coach there, and at some point he left and became Finny Gershon's assistant at Hapoel Tel Aviv. In his last season at Shaar HaNegev, Amsalem also bombed in the cup games held at Osishkin Hall. That was how good it was, as Joshua Rosin, the legendary coach, said after seeing Him: "We found the new Kenny Levanovski" (Levanovski was a star of Hapoel Tel Aviv for four seasons – AP).

How was the move from Sderot to Tel Aviv?
"This was my second time in Tel Aviv. The first time was an annual trip for the Shalom dog school. There was a wax museum on the roof and we were terribly excited about it. After that we ate a sandwich and returned home to Sderot. When I moved to Hapoel, I got an apartment in Nordau corner of Ibn Gvirol, really Close to Usishkin. They were afraid I wouldn't find the hall. I got the key to the apartment, and suddenly I was alone."

I realized you almost came home to mom.
"I was on the verge of breaking down. I called my Sderoti friend and told him that if he doesn't come to live with me, I'm leaving. He came, and I got used to it."

When he was 20 years old, he met Hagit, a 17-year-old girl from Bat Yam, through the same friend from the apartment. At the age of 24, when he was already the captain of Hapoel Tel Aviv and a player in the Israel national team, they got married. At the age of 25, Ralph Klein came to Hapoel, and Amsalem defines this period as follows: "The Hapoel before Ralph, and the Hapoel after Ralph."

Even though he was a full-on swashbuckler?
"Ralph was a school of basketball and proportions to life. I loved him very much until his last day, and we were constantly in touch. On Fridays I would take him to breakfast from his home in Evan Yehuda, Netanya. When he was already very ill, they held a farewell party for him. I remember It's like today. Hundreds of people came on a rainy day, and he came and said he only wanted three people to speak. Shimon Mizrahi, Miki Berkovich and me."

At the age of 21, he received an offer from Maccabi Tel Aviv. Hapoel was on the verge of liquidation, and his lawyer Eitan Erez called and said that they would not give up such an offer. Amsalem listened and went to his father in Sderot to consult.

what did dad say to you
"He finished eight years of school. I told him about Maccabi's offer and showed him the amount. He had never seen so many zeros on paper in his life. My father was at four of my games my entire career. My mother was not at all. She did not allow him to go Because she was afraid of him. So he would have a drink, sit in the car and listen to the game on the radio."

And what did he tell you about the offer from Maccabi?
"He looked at me and said, 'But you don't look happy.' I don't pay with them, and if I'm good, money won't be a problem. 'Don't sign,' I didn't sign there."

שמעון אמסלם (צילום: שחר מנספילד)
Shimon Amsalem (Photo: Shahar Mansfield)

Which brings us to his son Lotan, 20 years old, who was seriously debating whether to be a poster player for Hapoel Tel Aviv or to play, and in the end chose Upper Galilee from the Premier League. On Friday, October 6, Hagit and Shimon went to Kiryat Shmona to be with their son at Shabbat dinner. The next morning they were still in bed at their son's house when the madness started. Shimon: "At six thirty I realized there was a big mess in the south. Lotan still wanted to stay, but I understood that there was a war here, and we all immediately went to Tel Aviv."

They are training even now in Kfar Blum. Very close to Hezbollah's sniping. not simple.
"Lutan is now a kind of basketball vagabond. Galil does not play at her house. They only play away games, and train in Kfar Bloom. You should see what it looks like there. Patriot battery, 'cruelty' and tanks in the parking lot of the hall. Hallucination. We are in a new world. Everyone wants to go back to the pre-war world, I wish we would go back."

Are you an involved dad?
"I'm the most involved, but I don't get involved. Lotan's sister, Jordan, played four years for Aryeh Zelinger in the Israeli volleyball team. She lived in Wingate for four years. When Lotan was 15 years old, I got mad at him after a game, because he got a technical foul and he also argued. We fought on the way home. He was angry that I passed him in the hall, and we were alone, because one daughter was in the army and the other was abroad. I thought I was going crazy, because Lotan is a child in my heart, and then I told him – from now on I'm just your father. You have the best personal trainer, Ofer Ron, and the best fitness trainer, Regev Panan, and also a mental trainer. I'm just a father from now on. I don't comment anymore. Do you know what happened with that? He came to me and started asking questions."

Amsalam has always been a kind of social worker in nature. For the past 15 years, he has been managing the "The Day After" project on behalf of the College of Management, which takes care of athletes studying for a bachelor's degree. He himself, after his mother insisted, graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration at the University of Derby, along with his teammate, Moti Daniel: "We were with the team and I told Moti, 'Let's sign up, otherwise nothing will happen with it'. We signed up and it worked out."

Today, he takes care of the athletes' schedule, scholarships, helps with facilitation, accompanies them until they finish their degree, even during their careers. There are players with two training sessions a day, summer camp, Europe. They need Shimon to help them: "The soccer player Tamir Kahlon came to me. He ended his career due to an injury, and wanted to study law. I asked him if he had a high school diploma. He said no. I told him I would check. He sat on my nerves, until I went up to the president of the college and I told him That we have a case with a guy who doesn't have a high school diploma and wants to study, and that I take responsibility for him. The guy has a bachelor's and master's degree and works as a lawyer, it expands my heart."

Amsalem lives between basketball and life itself and makes connections and analogies between them: "Let's compare it to basketball. This country lived in its first 50 years with the understanding that being good is not enough. You have to be excellent. Same as above in sports, business and politics. Must be excellent. I just looked at the hearings at the tribunal in The Hague, and I was thrilled by the level of the hearings and how the Israeli representatives spoke there. The highest level there is. These are public servants, civil servants. On October 7, the state disappeared here for a month, the government offices fell apart and did not function, and I say – this is not the State of Israel that I knew. We have become like all countries, and this is a wake-up call for the good people to take the reins. Your story is not interesting until you win or lose."

And can we win?
"Tell me, does anyone care, Ashkenazi or Sephardi, if we lose? Because when we win, we win together. I still remember the Yom Kippur war in Sderot. Military trucks and military vehicles on the main street of Sderot. An illogical sight, and people are being taken from the synagogue to the front. Half They didn't come back. If we lose – does it matter where you are from?"

שמעון אמסלם (צילום: יוסי אלוני)
Shimon Amsalem (Photo: Yossi Aloni)

Five years ago Amsalem joined as a professional manager the "Negev Sel" project of the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, the Negev Development Authority and the Basketball Association. The goal is to reduce the gaps between children in the center and the periphery. The project encompassed 33 settlements from grade 2 to 9 – from the Western Negev, the Bedouin settlements and the cities of the south. It started with 600 children and reached 4,500, but on October 7, everything stopped, because the settlements were evacuated and the children were spread to all parts of the country. Shimon: "This included the training of coaches, instructors, transportation and leagues in the Western Negev, so that the children do not have to travel far. For me, if these schools produce players who will later go to the academies of Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Tel Aviv or Galil, that is an achievement the big one".

And what about the kids now?
"The Eshkol settlements, for example, are now in Ein Gedi, so we arranged for them to play in the far south, in the Southern Negev league, because no one there wants to give up their lives. It must come back and be financed by more social bodies and enterprises. This is my life, to help them return to sports and their routine."

Amsalem's basketball career ended at the age of 34 and a half in a disaster that could have ended even worse. He and Tomer Steinhauer went on a jeep trip in the north, and in the Kfar Liman area they stopped to rest. Shimon lit a gas that exploded when the solid gas hit his legs. The whole north was on their feet, and with the help of a Hapoel Tel Aviv doctor, Jacky Serov, Amsalam was rushed to Ichilov Hospital: "I was wearing a pressure suit and bandages. The skin fell off my body like gloves you take off your hands."
The recovery lasted three months, and Hapoel Tel Aviv came under pressure from his contract, after hearing from the doctors that there was no return date: "I helped them and told them, 'Guys, stop everything, I'm retiring.' Hagit, her jaw dropped. She told me 'we have three children, what will we do for a living?' I told her not to worry. I have everything I need and the family will not be harmed. Then I established the printing factory in Sderot."

I hear the mayor of Sderot, Alon Davidi, who is not willing to discuss the return of the residents as long as the fighting in Gaza continues, and there is no guarantee that the rocket fire will end. What do you think?
"I say that wisdom is not found in one person. Every mayor is obliged to give his residents a sense of security and to ensure a livelihood and a good social life, but there are also national, military considerations and an interest in trying to return people to normal, and to improve the current conditions of people who are nomads in their own country already More than a hundred days. Nothing is clear at the moment, and I don't envy those people who have to make decisions. Think about the security cabinet that has to take into account the hostages in the tunnels Crazy that I knew. Poor people who have to make these terrible decisions. I once asked Pini Gershon about the way to make good decisions, and he answered that if you don't make bad decisions on the way to success, you won't achieve your goal."

And what do you think it will be?
"I look at everything from my little prism, and try to look from a wide angle. We the people are just hollow hollow holes, and I believe in doing good and living through your children. I've had a great career, and I'm so enjoying now being around Lotan, who scored last Saturday 9 Points in Hapoel Holon. When I was on the island in 'Survival', Jordan got a message that she was accepted to Columbia University, and this time she didn't drive all the people on the island that I earned on the island , went directly to Colombia. Who are we without the children?".

Your childhood in Sderot was spent, among other things, with these neighbors in Gaza. What should be done now?
"We need to separate totally. This is currently the biggest consensus. Neither peace nor cooperation, but separation. We have never encountered such evil. We would not be capable, as a human race, of even thinking about beheading, burning and abusing your neighbors like this. If I ever thought of walls it was A disaster, I don't think it's a bad thing. It might be necessary to build a wall for 30 years, and if it works out, it will be possible to build a coexistence. I don't see us recovering from what happened here, for once someone will take responsibility for life I hope they will build a coalition of countries that will dismantle Gaza and build a model of Singapore or Hong Kong from the beginning, because we have enough challenges now in building ourselves."

Who should be the next prime minister?
"I'm not that interested in his name. I want a human prime minister, whose heart is in the right place. Who will come for two terms, put us on our feet and give the reins to the next in line. This terrible event stopped the civil war that had already broken out here. If we miss this chance To save the country, we don't deserve another chance."


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trending Story

כל המאמרים מתורגמים מהמקור המקורי. אנו מפעילים שירות תרגום כדי לעזור לדוברי אנגלית בישראל להבין מה קורה ברחבי ישראל.

כל התוכן והתמונות הם בבעלות המקור המקורי. לכל מאמר יש קישור למקור המקורי בתחתית המאמר. אנחנו לא מאחסנים תמונות מקור מקוריות בשרת שלנו.

גולים רבים, פנסיונרים ותיירים דוברי אנגלית סומכים על השירות שלנו. להרבה מתושבי ישראל דוברי אנגלית אין גישה למידע זה. השירות שלנו מקל על תקשורת בין תושבים דוברי אנגלית לתקשורת עברית תוך מתן יותר מבקרים לכל מאמר מקור

אם תרצה להסיר פריט, תוכל לפנות אלינו עם כתובת האתר והוכחת בעלות כדי להסיר פריט מהמערכת שלנו.