Columbia University graduate student Fahoum Fahoum understands perhaps better than most the extraordinary impact of the Israel Tennis & Education Centers on the youth of Israel. That is because he not only learned the sport of tennis at the ITEC – Haifa, he learned from his mother how tennis can become the platform to connect Jewish youth together.
“My mother started the ITEC Coexistence Program at the Selma and Irving Ettenberg Israel Tennis & Education Center in Haifa when I was just a child,” Fahoum recalls. “ It started as a single group of 20 kids and is now one of the most important social impact programs the ITEC has at all of its 14 centers throughout Israel.”
Fahoum started playing tennis at the age of 7 following his sister Nadine who was also there. He quickly joined the Junior National team and, between the ages of 10 and 12, competed internationally around the globe. Later he came to the US on a tennis scholarship to Old Dominion University, transferring in his junior year to Quinipiac University in Conneticut. After graduation, he enrolled at Columbia studying sport as a transformative vehicle for athletes in different communities.
“The ITEC’s Coexistence Program addresses some of the most important issues surrounding coexistence building. The first of these is the realization that Jewish and Arab youth do not always have the opportunity to integrate in public places. Secondly, in terms of communications, there remains a gap between Arab and Jewish youth. Hebrew is taught at an earlier age in Israel than Arab. Tennis can help bridge that gap. Thirdly, tennis transforms interdependency, encouraging people to work together and trust one another. And finally, tennis can provide a ‘level playing field’ when it comes to identity so that people come to understand there are issues to overcome that are larger than the individual alone.”
After Fahoum earns his Masters of Science degree he hopes to continue in some capacity relating to his work in the area of Coexistence. Currently, he is Columbia’s Assistant Director of Gifts. He knows that whatever life holds, the ITEC was there to shape his personality and help him become the success he is today.
“The ITEC coaches were just as important to me in terms of education as any teacher I had in school. They were there when my personality was being formed, and through them I learned the values of respect, friendship and leadership. The ITEC was like my second family, and everyone there was extremely committed to my pursuit of excellence.”