A security detail has accompanied the group throughout their travels to Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, a restaurant near the northern border with Syria and Lebanon, the Holocaust Museum, and a basketball clinic for Israeli and Palestinian youngsters. The itinerary includes another youth clinic and a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “We were a little nervous about going to Jerusalem,” Casspi said by phone early Tuesday morning, “but we had a great time. Thousands of people followed us when we walked around the Wall and the shops. DeMarcus was like a rock star. Everybody wanted to be around him.”
This week, columnist Dave Zirin of The Nation wrote an open letter to the players who accompanied Casspi, urging them to investigate Adelson’s background. Zirin further alleges that Casspi organized the delegation in response to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, a Palestinian-founded campaign designed to isolate and financially cripple Israel.
“You sit around a locker room, and you talk about your home,” Casspi said. “I always tell my teammates, ‘Come see my side of the world. I go to your house when we go to Washington. Come meet my parents, my brother, my sister.’ It’s literally as simple as that. On CNN, all you see is war. My thought is, ‘Come see for yourself.’ Sheldon … is a Republican; our president (Barack Obama) is a Democrat. Good, bad, whatever. It doesn’t matter. We have to work on our relationship.” While the NBA’s involvement is limited to providing a clinician and T-shirts for the campers, league officials have long encouraged coaches and players to conduct clinics – usually in conjunction with the U.S. State Department – in war-torn countries such as Lebanon, Iran and Iraq. During the Cold War, the Atlanta Hawks toured the former Soviet Union and fostered lifelong friendships among the players, coaches and members of the respective basketball federations.
Billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson flew a group of NBA players to Israel on his private jet Thursday. According to the Jewish Journal, Adelson and his wife’s private Boeing 747 jet was lent to a delegation of eight NBA players, led by Israeli Sacramento Kings’ forward Omri Casspi. Video of the players approaching the plane was posted on the Instagram account of former NBA player Gal Mekel, who is also Israeli.