Every season, dozens of African American basketball players pack up their sneakers to play and live in Israel. They eat Israeli food, navigate Israeli hustle and bustle, experience cultural and religious customs in the world’s only Jewish country, and voluntarily expose themselves to the omnipresent threat of violence in the volatile Middle East. Some players are both Black and Jewish by birth. Others choose to convert to Judaism while residing in Israel. Some go so far as to obtain Israeli citizenship, enlist in the Israeli Army, marry Israeli women, and stay long after their playing careers end. Alley-Oop to Aliyah: African American Hoopsters in the Holy Land, is the first book to provide an in-depth exploration and analysis of the experiences of African American basketball players in Israel from the 1970s till today. Author David A. Goldstein examines how they end up in the country in the first place, the multitude of distinctive aspects of their lives there, the challenges and difficulties they face, and the reasons some choose to return to Israel year after year. In some cases they even decide to stay in Israel permanently. Alley-Oop to Aliyah not only deals with basketball and its impact on Israel, but it delves into emotion-laden issues of race, religion, identity, and politics, primarily through the eyes of the players themselves, based on more than forty extensive first-person interviews Goldstein, a sports journalist of half-Israeli descent, conducted. Their stories and their impact on Israel are at the very heart of this revealing book that is about more than just a game.
“David Goldstein has written my favorite kind of sports book--one where the author reveals an entire world that I hardly knew existed before. Alley-Oop to Aliyah's depiction of Israel's unique basketball culture and the American imports that play in the country's professional league is destined to become essential reading for anyone fascinated with basketball's global appeal, and anyone who just loves the game.” —Rafe Bartholomew, former features editor, Grantland.com and author of Pacific Rims, Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball
“A compelling and honest look at the State of Israel from a totally unique perspective--through the eyes of African American basketball players. I'm thrilled that David Goldstein wrote this book--we are not a perfect country, but we are an extraordinary one, and some untold wonders of Israel are captured beautifully through the words and feelings of these beloved athletes who choose to make Israel their home." —Tal Brody, Goodwill Ambassador for the State of Israel; 1977 European Cup champion and 10-time Israeli champion with Maccabi Tel Aviv
“A remarkable story that transcends sports, race, and even Israeli history. It's a story about humanity, grit, and teamwork. An inspiring read for everyone.” —Alan Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard University and author of the New York Times bestseller The Case for Israel
“Israelis are intense about everything ... including their sports. Over the past forty years, a surprising number of American basketball pros have learned to love the intensity of Israeli life. One of them helped put Israel on the international sports map, at a time that Israelis needed good news. Alley-Oop to Aliyah masterfully weaves together a series of individual stories that combined make up a collective sensation. Serving the role of interviewer, narrator, and educator, David Goldstein has made a meaningful contribution in chronicling this slice of Israeli sports history. This is a thought-provoking and eye-opening book that is also a fun and important read.” —Dan Senor, co-author, Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel's Economic Miracle
“The phrase the "global game" is tossed around liberally these days, but David Goldstein connects those dots beautifully here. The rich history of African American ballplayers making the trek to the other side of the world to pursue their hoop dreams, only to find out that the passion for the game in Israel is as strong as it is anywhere, was truly enlightening. If you didn't already know that the ties that bind all of us hoops heads knows no boundaries, you will after reading this book.” —Sekou Smith, columnist, NBA.com and analyst, NBA TV
“Coverage of the globalization of basketball tends to focus on the influx of internationals in the NBA. David Goldstein takes a fascinating look at a different kind of global drift: that of African American players heading to Israel--a country with a vibrant hoops scene--and becoming far more than temporary reinforcements. Alley-Oop to Aliyah isn't just a basketball book; it's also about immigration, religion, politics, and how players' lives were changed by their experiences in Israel.” —Luke Winn, senior writer, Sports Illustrated