The Lords and Commons Cricket Club from the United Kingdom is visiting Israel this week for a landmark cricket tour. The inaugural trip will combine an original mix of cricket and political fact-finding.
The tour seeks to highlight co-existence within Israeli society. In line with this, the trip has been coordinated with the Israel Cricket Association (ICA), which was awarded the Spirit of Cricket Award for their Cricket4Peace project at International Cricket Council (ICC) Development Program Awards in 2011.
Cricket4Peace is the first cross-border peace-building project to use cricket to bring together Israeli and Palestinian children from disadvantaged communities.
The UK parliamentarians will travel to Beersheba to play cricket with Israeli and Palestinian children participating in the Cricket4Peace program, through which they will see first-hand the power of cricket in bringing people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions together.
The group will also be playing cricket with Bedouin children in the village of Hura.
A cricket game against an invitational XI assembled by the Chairman of the ICA, Stanley Perlman, and another against reigning national champions, Young Ashdod, have also been scheduled.
Point guard Gal Mekel impressed the Utah Jazz in a recent audition to such a degree that the Jazz, according to sources close to the situation, have extended an unexpected invitation to training camp to Mekel, who played two seasons at Wichita State from 2006-08.
But sources told ESPN.com that visa complications have made it unlikely that Mekel could be ready to join the Jazz before the end of the coming week at the earliest, by which point he’d have already missed several practices, thus setting him back and complicating any attempt to try to make Utah’s roster.
So the most likely scenario now, sources say, is that Mekel, 24, will play in Europe for one more season before coming back to the States to play summer league ball next July.
During last week’s visit to Utah’s practice facility, sources say Mekel impressed Jazz officials in pickup games with his ballhandling, size, ability to read the game and, most of all, his effectiveness in pick and rolls.
The suggestion is that the 6-foot-4, 190-pounder might actually be more effective in the NBA game than he is internationally, particularly in pick-and-roll situations, because the lane tends to be so much more clogged overseas.
Since leaving the collegiate ranks, Mekel has won both Rookie of the Year (2009) and league MVP (2011) awards in his homeland during a three-season run in the Israeli Super League, bouncing between perennial European powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv and Gilboa Galil Elyon. Mekel spent the 2011-12 season with Benetton Treviso in Italy but was slowed by a bout with plantar fasciitis.
He’s close with Casspi and recently joined the Cleveland swingman and another emerging NBA guard prospect — Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Yogev Ohayon — on the Israeli national team that qualified for the 2013 Eurobasket tournament in Slovenia.
Besides Casspi, power forward Lior Eliyahu and combo guard Yotam Halperin are the only other Israelis whose rights are currently held by an NBA team. But both players, selected in the second round of the 2006 NBA Draft, have spent their entire pro careers with elite teams in Europe.
Minnesota acquired Eliyahu’s rights from Houston in June as part of the trade that landed Chase Budinger with the Timberwolves, but Eliyahu, now 27, has only sampled NBA summer-league ball since being drafted 44th overall in 2006.
Halperin, drafted No. 53 overall by Seattle in ’06, is now 28 and has opted for the security of more lucrative deals in Slovenia, Greece, Russia and Germany — in addition to multiple stints with Maccabi Tel Aviv — as opposed to taking on the risky challenge of making it to the NBA without the safety net of a guaranteed contract.
It appears Mekel, though, is poised to chase the NBA dream after the strong encouragement he got from the Jazz.
President Peres told the members of the Israeli delegation: “It is a victory of the spirit, it is a triumph of the soul.”
PM Netanyahu told delegation members: ” You represent the Israeli spirit at its best.”
Gershony, a former Apache helicopter pilot, was paralyzed in a crash during the Second Lebanon War in 2006.
Gershony also won a bronze medal in the Paralympics’ doubles tournament, along with fellow countryman Shraga Weinberg
In a very successful day, the Israeli delegation to the 2012 London Paralympic Games claimed three medals Wednesday: Sharpshooter Doron Shaziri and hand-cyclist Koby Lion each won a silver medal, while tennis players Noam Gershony and Shraga Weinberg won the bronze medal.
Hand-cyclist Lion finished his first 8-kilometer race in the men’s individual H1 time trial in a time of 18:45.21 minutes, and his second 8-kilometer race in 17:41.65 minutes, ranking second overall after his Irish competitor Mark Rohan in 35:53.30 minutes.
Sharpshooter Shaziri reached the finals in the first place position and accumulated 95.4 points in the deciding stages, losing to his Swedish rival Jonas Jakobsson.
Tennis players Weinberg and Gershony beat Japanese pair Shota Kawano and Mitsuteru Moroishi in the quad doubles 6:3, 6:1, winning the bronze medal. The two have also reached the semi-final in the quad singles, where they will compete against each other.
Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat congratulated the Paralympic delegation in London for its impressive achievements. “This is dreamlike day for our athletes in London and an excellent day for Israeli sports,” she said.
“They are not only talented athletes, but people with a huge heart, mental strength and a great desire to succeed and prove that nothing can stop them. I am proud of them and salute them.”
Israeli swimmer Inbal Pezaro won her second bronze medal at the London Paralympics on Saturday after coming in third in the 200-meter freestyle heat, stopping the clocks at 2:56.11 minutes. Swimmer Izhak Mamistvalov claimed his own bronze medal in the 200-meter freestyle heat, in a time of 4:58.53 minutes.
On Thursday, Pezaro took home Israel’s first medal at the London Paralympic Games in the 50-meter freestyle heat, timing 37:89 seconds.
Israel became the 28th nation eligible to compete in the World Championship due to its stellar play during its inaugural participation in the 2012 European Lacrosse Championship this summer in Amsterdam.
The men’s team swept its competition in pool play with a 4-0 record, finishing with a 7-5 record that included exhibition games, en route to an eight place ranking in the tournament.
Overall, Israel won four of its seven matches in tournament play including a close victory over 10th place Wales by a score of 14-12.
On the basis of performance in the European Championship, the Israel Lacrosse Association was awarded full membership to the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) earlier this week.