The Israel Tennis Center (ITC) honored Annette Lerner for her ongoing support of Israel and the ITC Sunday at the Regency Sport and Health Club in McLean. The event featured an exhibition where the highly talented ITC tennis team composed of children ranging from 10 to 18 years old practiced drills in front of an audience.
Along with the exhibition, the ITC hosted a tennis clinic for kids, an auction of tennis memorabilia and a catered reception.
Joining the exhibition from Israel was 14-year-old Shadi Altori, a Bedouin who most embodies what the ITC tries to do for the youth who come to the center. Altori, born to an Arab father and a Romanian mother, said his father always wanted “peace between Arabs and Jews.” Altori said his father first brought him to the ITC two years ago because there he could be safe and begin to foster relationships with Jewish kids. Altori says he dreams of one day representing Israel in the Olympics as a tennis player.
Yoav Schab, 30, who coaches Altori at the Beersheva center and is also leading the ITC on its visit to the United States, has been with the ITC since he was just 6 years old. Despite a tennis career that has enabled him to compete in such iconic tennis venues as Wimbledon and the U.S. Open as a tennis player and coach, Schab says the highlight of his resume is what he is now able to do at the tennis center.
Schab says to see the Arab and Jewish players practice together, play together and learn together at the center is “truly amazing.”
On a more somber note, Schab spoke about how rough this past summer was, since the war put a hold on the kids being able to train due to constant missile fire from Hamas. Schab said the stress of constantly having to run and hide in bomb shelters began to take a toll on the kids, so the coaches decided to take 60 kids from the center to enjoy a day at the Dead Sea to take their mind off the conflict. Schab said that was only one the many great things the ITC does for its kids.
The most talented player of the group is 17-year-old Yossi Dahan who displayed his skill in front the crowd during the exhibition drawing “oohs and aahs” from the crowd with his powerful groundstrokes.
Dahan, who has been living at the ITC Academy in Ramat Hasharon, is now touring Division 1 schools in the United States to decide from which one he will accept a scholarship offer.
Dahan, who models his game after pro player Lleyton Hewitt, said he is extremely thankful for the ITC because it has allowed him improve his tennis and travel to the United States, which he loves.
The ITC will hold another exhibition on Sunday in Atlanta, before returning to Israel.