For the first time in Israel’s history, two Arabs represented the country at the Special Olympics in Athens, Greece – Muhammad from East Jerusalem and Jafar from Beit Tzafafa.
Both young men study at the special education school ‘Elsalam’ in Beit Tzafafa, and play tennis at the Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Israel Tennis Center in Jerusalem. They come to the center twice a week with a group from their school, and train with ITC coach Itamar Hen.
Mahmud Karay’in, the physical education teacher from the Elsalam School, explained how both players started to play tennis. “I noticed during my sports lessons in school that they trained well, so I pointed them in the direction of playing tennis. I encouraged them to go to the ITC train and participate in competitions.”
Jafar, who has been playing tennis for ten years, said “I was so excited to go to the Olympics, and to have the opportunity to win a medal. I love playing tennis, I feel good and I hope to become one of the best players in the world.”
Muhammad, who has been playing tennis for seven years, agreed. “I was so happy to go to the Olympics. I enjoy playing tennis, as it also allows me to exercise. Like Jafar, I hope to become one of the world’s leading players.”
Ilan Maman, the ITC – Jerusalem Director, added, “When Muhammad and Jafar first started playing, their level was very low, but they have made enormous progress. After the announcement that they were chosen for the Olympics, they got even better. They enjoy every second they can spend on the court. They appreciate the Center, the coaches and the efforts of their school.”