Tal Brody could have been drafted into the NBA but turned that down to help change the landscape of Israeli sport. In playing for the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team, his presence in Israel also led the way for more Jewish American basketball stars to come and play in Israel. Amongst them were Barry Leibowitz from Long Island University and Lou Silver from Harvard.
Brody’s ability and leadership carried MTA to its first European title in 1977, after beating CSKA Moscow. This was a very important first for Israel and at the time, although it was not announced in the Soviet press, word did get through to the Jews in the Soviet Union who were elated about this.
These days Israel’s ‘Mr. Basketball’ is in a different role. To try and counter those who take ‘shots’ at the Jewish state. In this respect, last year Brody was appointed the first-ever international goodwill ambassador of Israel. He was quoted as saying: “I’m very glad they chose a sportsman to take on that position. I speak at campuses and try to go up with the facts against a lot of the negativity about Israel."
Brody is now 68 and takes these trips every four to six weeks on behalf of Israel. When in American he works with Jewish and non-Jewish organisations from Hispanic, Christian, Afro-American and others to try and get the positive message about Israel across.
Brody has said that he highlights how Israel is the only country in the Middle East that gives full rights to
women and homosexuals and is not an apartheid state as is commonly alleged.
He also says that “on college campuses, Afro-Americans who have never been to Israel often think that we are like South Africa which is so far from the truth, so when I come and have discussions they get a better understanding of what Israel is all about."
Brody defends the security fence, noting that terrorist actions killed 1,700 Israelis, including Jews, Christians, Arabs, Muslims and Druze, infants and seniors, and that more security was needed. When he speaks to different groups, Brody calls Israel “the sports capital of the Middle East”. He explains the 60-40-20 system by remembering the country’s athletic history. Sixty years of Olympic participation, 40 years since 11 Israeli sportsmen were massacred at the Munich Olympics and 20 years since Israel won its first Olympic medal in judo.
A number of Afro-American players have represented Israeli teams over the years. Therefore the work carried out by Brody and a strong basketball contact between Israel and many Afro-American players can only help to ease some of the tension that exists between the two groups in America.
Analysis written by Matt Suher