Hapoel Jerusalem’s Amar’e Stoudemire, in process of converting to Judaism, is now officially an Israeli citizen.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
Six-time NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire received his Israeli citizenship Wednesday in a ceremony at Israel’s Interior Ministry.
Although the American basketball star is still only in the process of converting to Judaism, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri granted him the citizenship based on his “unique contributions” to Israeli society.
Stoudemire has played for Hapoel Jerusalem of the country’s Premier League since 2016. He immediately led his team to the Israeli Basketball League Cup, and in 2017 he helped the team seize the Israeli League Championship.
He is also a part-owner of the team since 2013, although he had to suspend his ownership in order to play.
At the ceremony, Deri praised the 36-year-old star as a “tremendous basketball player, a wonderful man and great ambassador of Israel and our capital Jerusalem, who has tied his fate to that of Israel’s.”
Stoudemire was thrilled at getting his new ID card.
“It’s a very exciting moment for me,” he said, according to the Ynet new site. “My body is flooded with emotions now, my love for Israel has been with me for many years, and being part of Israel is something very special. I would like to say thank you also to Hapoel Jerusalem for giving me the opportunity to play on the team and to help me in this process.”
The African-American has long felt an affinity to the Jewish people, identifying specifically with the Black Hebrew Israelites, who believe they are descendants of the ancient Israelites from the Bible.
In a 2010 interview, he noted, “I have been aware since my youth that I am a Hebrew through my mother, and that is something that has played a subtle but important role in my development.”
Stoudemire played for 14 years in the NBA for four different teams. He was named Rookie of the Year in 2003, made six appearances as an All-Star, and won a bronze medal with the American team at the 2004 Olympics.
He also has his own clothing line, record label and kosher wine label, called Stoudemire Cellars, and has acted in several movies and American TV shows. He established a charitable foundation in 2003 which among other endeavors funded the building of water wells in villages in Sierra Leone.