Last month, Yeshiva University’s men’s basketball team, the YU Maccabees, joined with Athletes For Israel on a weeklong solidarity trip to Israel. For the Jewish student-athletes it was an emotional and meaningful journey as they took part in the “Bring Them Home Tour” and experienced life in Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.
The trip was organized in conjunction with Athletes for Israel, an organization that works to combat antisemitism. By bringing professional and collegiate athletes to Israel and enabling them to experience Israel’s culture, history, innovation and people, the organization seeks to change the narrative about Israel and paint the country in a positive light. Athletes for Israel hopes to inspire athletes that have visited Israel through its program to share their transformative experiences on their social media platforms, thereby helping to change common misconceptions about Israel.
As Israelis continues to experience a tremendous sense of pain in the wake of the horrific Hamas attacks on Oct. 7, the YU Maccabees’ visit was particularly significant and impactful, and it helped remind Israelis how Jews around the globe continue to stand with them and support them in these challenging times.
“Since the Oct. 7 attacks, we talked with the team about finding ways to make this season more valuable than just basketball. The trip with Athletes for Israel was the opportunity to do exactly that. The time we spent in Israel was inspiring and uplifting, despite the sadness and atrocities we witnessed. The Bring Them Home Tour was the most important and meaningful week of my career,” said Maccabees coach Elliot Steinmetz as he reflected on the team’s visit to Kibbutz Beeri and the Nova memorial site in southern Israel.
While in Israel, the team helped pick produce in the fields, visited hospitals, packed supplies for soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces and hosted clinics, all in an effort to raise the spirits of Israelis and assist in whatever ways they could.
The team also placed an emphasis on helping Israeli children return to a sense of normalcy by holding a basketball clinic in Kfar Maccabiah, where many families who were displaced from southern Israel due to the Oct. 7 attacks are now living. In addition, arrangements were made with Shalva, the Israel Association for the Care and Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities, for the Maccabees to host a clinic for children with various disabilities.
“Being able to come to Israel on the Bring Them Home Tour and show up for the Jewish people in this way was a really powerful experience; I’m incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity to do what I love in an effort to help the land and people I love,” said Maccabees star Max Zakheim, a junior from Bergenfield, N.J.
In addition to the time spent volunteering, the student-athletes from Yeshiva University played an exhibition game against Hapoel Tel Aviv, an Israeli professional basketball club. The game was intended to give local residents and displaced individuals and families some measure of relief from the present situation.
In fact, the game generated so much interest from people hoping to attend that the venue had to be changed in order to accommodate what turned out to be a large crowd. The camaraderie between the Yeshiva University team and the Hapoel Tel Aviv players was striking, and the fans’ great excitement made the event a meaningful one for everyone who was there.
“Athletes for Israel believes in the power of sports to unite and uplift, and the Bring Them Home Tour accomplished exactly that; while we came to Israel to show love to our brothers and sisters in the Jewish State, the gratitude they expressed to the Maccabees and our organization was a great show of their love and appreciation for what we do, and we feel very proud of that,” said Daniel Posner, Athletes for Israel founder and CEO.