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Arizona, Kansas students to visit Israel in ‘Birthright for College Basketball’

August 08, 2023


On the 10-day trip, the men’s basketball teams at University of Arizona and Kansas State University will learn about Jewish history and culture, in addition to antisemitism.

Two top-ranked college athletic programs are slated to travel to Israel and the United Arab Emirates this week in a program sponsored by the nonprofit Athletes for Israel, which refers to itself as the “Birthright for college basketball.”

From Aug. 10-20, the Kansas State University and University of Arizona men’s basketball teams—coincidentally, both are called the Wildcats—will play Israeli counterparts and, off the court, will learn about Jewish and Arab history and culture, as well as antisemitism, in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Abu Dhabi.

Daniel Posner, founder and chairman of Athletes for Israel, and Bruce Pearl, the Jewish head coach of the Auburn University Tigers, developed the idea of a college basketball “Birthright” program.

“We came up with this dream. The two of us wanted to bring college teams to Israel every year because we wanted to fight antisemitism, and the best way to do that is partnering with people to educate them about Israel,” Posner told JNS. 

“The best way to educate people about it is to let them see it for themselves firsthand,” he said. “We only believe in peace. Let’s prove it by showing them what we’ve done in the Abraham Accords.”

Another coincidence: Posner’s daughter, Gabrielle, is married to Avi Berkowitz, the former U.S. special representative for international negotiations who played an integral role in brokering the accords.

In Abu Dhabi, the Arizona and Kansas players are to visit the Abrahamic Family House and the Grand Mosque, among other locations. They will also learn about the history, diversity and importance of the modern State of Israel on walking tours of Jerusalem’s Old City, the City of David, Bethlehem and Jaffa, and visits to Yad Vashem and the Dead Sea.

The student-athletes will also take part in a technology summit with top world venture capitalists in Tel Aviv. Israel exports technology and innovation globally, and the athletes and others must learn that Israel is more dynamic than just a state formed following the Holocaust, according to Posner.

“People need to see that Israel is important today because of how amazing the culture and society is, and the fact that we have developed world-class science to cure different diseases and technology like our first responders use to deal with terrorism,” he said.

Athletes for Israel originally planned to bring just one college program to Israel over the summer, but Posner told JNS that the nonprofit was so impressed with Jerome Tang, head coach of the Kansas State basketball team, and Tommy Lloyd, head coach of the University of Arizona team, that it opted to bring both.

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