A Silver Lining for U.S. Immigrant’s Career

Jerry Mittleman
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Jerry Mittleman

Tom Maayan recently signed a multi-year contract with Hapoel Jerusalem, following a yearlong struggle with the IDF that captured the attention of the American media, including a long article in the New York Times in mid-November.

Maayan, a 20-year old, 6’ 1” (1.85m) point guard, began this season playing collegiate basketball with the Big East’s Seton Hall, but chose to return to Israel to finish his military service after failing to receive permission to continue his career abroad. His decision to sign with the Premier League’s current leader effectively puts his college days behind him.

The Israel Defense Forces often allows “exceptional athletes” to postpone their service or tries to arrange it with their sports activity but rarely allows them to be based overseas. In Maayan’s case, the IDF is letting him continue to play for Hapoel Jerusalem and also permitting him to travel with them for overseas games.

Maayan was born in Montreal and immigrated to a kibbutz in the Upper Galilee. There he was raised by his uncle until he reached 18, starring in high school basketball.

Maayan began his career with Seton Hall last season and returned to Israel last March. He served in the army for five months including basic training. During his stay that summer, he competed for Israel’s under-20 national team and averaged 10 points a game. He returned last August under the mistaken understanding that he’d be allowed to stay in New Jersey for his sophomore season. Instead, he was ordered to report again to resume his army service on January 2.

Despite the conflict, there appears to be a silver lining to this tale: Maayan has hooked up with one of the top teams in Israel. He will be coached by Brad Greenberg, a one-time NBA general manager who led Maccabi Haifa to a surprising championship last season.

According to Hapoel Jerusalem’s CEO Guy Harel, “Tom arrived in Israel mentally prepared for the adjustment he is making and today is comfortable with his situation.”

Tom Maayan in action for Hapoel Jerusalem last month. Credit: Seffi Magriso

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