Israel Tennis Centers
|Type||Sports – Tennis,
|Headquarters||Ramat HaSharon, Israel|
Israel Tennis Centers ("ITC"; Hebrew: המרכז לטניס בישראל) is the largest social service agency for children in Israel, serving more than a half million children and their families since its first center opened in Ramat Hasharon in 1976. With 14 centers on the country, primarily in underprivileged communities, the not-for-profit Centers use tennis to promote the social, physical, and psychological well being of their students (through other programs such as their Life Skills program). Another of its goals is the development of coaches (such as Oded Yaakov), and building and maintaining courts and facilities at the highest levels.
The ITC is the physical home of the Israel Children's Centers, Israel's largest social service agency for children. The Israel Children's Centers serve 10,000 children every week through a variety of programs that address development and social needs, including coexistence programs for Arab and Jewish children and customized programs for a variety of disabilities.
The ITC has to date produced the following top-30 players: Andy Ram (career-high doubles ranking of No. 5); Yoni Erlich (doubles ranking of No. 5); Shahar Pe'er (doubles ranking of No. 14 and singles ranking of No. 11); Anna Smashnova (singles ranking of No. 15); Amos Mansdorf (singles ranking of No. 18); Shlomo Glickstein (singles ranking of No. 22 in 1982; No. 28 in doubles); Dudi Sela (singles ranking of No. 30 in 2009), and Harel Levy (singles ranking of No. 30 in 2001).
In 1974, at a time when tennis in Israel was a sport played primarily by tourists as beach hotels, Dr. Ian Froman, Freddie Krivine, Joseph D. Shane, Harold Landesberg, Rubin Josephs, and Dr. William H. Lippy began fundraising efforts to launch tennis as a sport in Israel and to build a National Tennis Center on an old strawberry patch in Ramat HaSharon given to the ITC by the government. On April 25, 1976, Leah Rabin cut the ribbon to the Center, and 250 children signed up to participate. Canadian pioneers of the Centers included Joseph Frieberg, Gerry Goldberg, Ralph Halbert, and Harold Green. Their fundraising efforts laid the financial foundation for Canada Stadium, where the Davis Cup and Fed Cup were hosted in Israel until 2009, and the construction and maintenance of the centers, as well as provision of equipment to the children, were funded without any government assistance.
By 2008, about 350,000 Jewish, Christian, and Moslem Israeli children had gone through the seven complexes funded by the ITC, and 1951 Wimbledon champion Dick Savitt was overseeing the coaching techniques. Anna Smashnova moved to Israel with her family in 1990, aged 15, and trained at the ITC; the next year she won the French Open girls title, and in 2002 she reached a career-high ranking of No. 15. In 1991 the ATP donated $5,000 to the ITC, and Argentine tennis player Martín Jaite, who is Jewish, donated $3,000. In 1995, Israeli former Davis Cup player and national champion Gilad Bloom, who was world champion in the under-12 age group, became senior coach role with the ITC.
Thirty years after the centers were begun, in 2006 the first ITC product won a Wimbledon title, as Andy Ram won the 2006 Wimbledon Mixed Doubles title. He had learned his tennis at the ITC's Jerusalem Tennis Center, and Yoni Erlich, his men's doubles partner, had learned his tennis at the Haifa Tennis Center. "I can only find words of esteem for the Israel Tennis Center for their support and help", Ram said after his success.
In 2007, Issy Kramer, Honorary President of the Israel Water Polo Association (IWPA), indicated that he would like to replicate what the ITC has achieved, by building centers throughout Israel, particularly in poorer neighborhoods and development towns. "Swimming, like tennis, should not have to be an elitist sport", he said.
Israel Tennis Center -TEL AVIV
History The Israel Tennis Center in Tel Aviv opened on August 3, 1991 in the underprivileged neighborhood of Yad Eliyahu in order to provide low income families in south Tel Aviv with a safe place after school and access to sports activities for their children, regardless of their playing ability. The first manager of the center was Ron Steele, followed by Ronen Bagan, Gil Elroee, Rami Zlikovitz, Danny Gelley, Shaya Azar, and Erez Gabish. Since 2007, Yigal Gipesh has served as the manager of the center. He was raised in Donezk, Ukraine and is an alumnus of the Sport University in Moscow. Yigal immigrated to Israel in 1990.
Activities at the center The center has fourteen illuminated courts, a training wall, gym, coach’s room, and sporting goods store. The center offers a variety of programs for all ages: a preschool program, a motor skill development program (ages 4–6), a mini tennis program (ages 6–8), a regular tennis program (ages 8–18), a competitive program, and both leisure and cardio tennis programs for adults. The center also offers a kindergarten program specifically designed for developmentally disabled children.
Over the years, the center in Tel Aviv has produced many players that have gone on to win the Israel Tennis Champion youth division title as well as other national competitions. The best known among them is Shahar Peer, who at the peak of her career ranked 11th in the world. Shahar played at the center from age 6 to 14 under the tutelage of Yigal Gipesh. Two other Israel Federation Cup team players, Anna Smashnova and Tzippi Ovzille, also grew up playing at the center.
In 1995, the first international youth tournament was hosted at the center featuring a delegation from Moscow. A year later, the tournament attracted seven more Soviet Union countries as well as a number of European countries. In 1997, it received official recognition from Europe Tennis as an international tournament in memory of the late prime minister of Israel, Yitzchak Rabin, a longtime supporter of the Israel Tennis Centers. Many Israeli players began their professional tennis careers at the European International Tournament in Tel Aviv, among them Shahar Peer and Dudi Sela, both of whom won the tournament. Many players from abroad have also played on the courts in Tel Aviv, some of including Marcos Begdatis, Maria Kirilenko, Elisa Kleivanova, Vera Dushniva, and Yekaterina Makrova, Monika Nikolesko, and Olga Savchuk.
Israel Tennis Center - AKKO
The Israel Tennis Center in Akko opened in 2010 with the support of the city of Akko, the IDB Company, and the Jewish Agency for Israel. It serves both Akko residents and those living in the Western Galilee. The dedication ceremony took place on June 6, 2010, and included thousands of residents and many distinguished guests such as Nochi Dankner (the head of IDB Company), Michael and Raya Strauss, Akko Mayor Shimon Lankri, Shaul Mofazand Alan Hoffman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the tennis star Anna Smashnova, and host Danny Rop. During the ceremony, an exhibition game was played between Shahar Peer and Ofri Lankri, who grew up in Akko and, in December 2013, played in the finals of the Israel Tennis Championship young adults division.
Activities at the Center
The center boasts thirteen illuminated tennis courts, including a 600-seat stadium as well as international tournaments for men and women hosted every year at the center.
The center also offers a variety of programs for children, teenagers, and adults that are funded by donations from Israel and abroad. They include a program for the special needs population, a unique program for youth at risk, a coexistence program, and a twin kindergarten program in which a Jewish and Arab kindergarten come to the center to participate in sports activities and visit one another in their respective preschools. From the day the center opened, EladRoth, born in Nahariya, has served as its manager.
Samson Israel Tennis Center – BEER SHEVA
The first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion, declared that the population and development of the Negev is imperative to the future of the entire nation of Israel. Many years later, Beer Sheva has become the Negev’s largest and most influential metropolis, and is currently the fifth largest city in Israel. In the past two decades the city’s tremendous growth can be attributed in large part to the multiple waves of immigrants from Ethiopia and Russia who have made Beer Sheva their home. Welcomed with open arms, Beer Sheva is now home to 6,000 Ethiopian Jews. As this population continues to grow the ITC’s goal is to successfully integrate the children of these refugees into Israeli society and ensure that they become successful and productive Israeli citizens.
The Samson Israel Tennis Center in Beer Sheva opened in November 1991 for the citizens of Beer Sheva and the nearby towns of Omer, Meitar, Lahavim and Teneh Omerim (located on Hevron Mountain) as well as the kibbutzim of Lahav, Hatzerim, Beit Kamah, and Rahat. During the center’s first sixteen years, Lior Har Vradi served as its manager. Following him were Hadas Azoulai and Yaniv Sakira, who began in 2008 and continues to serve as the center’s manager today.
Activities at the center
There are 8 illuminated courts, a 600-seat stadium, a practice wall, a gym specially designed for the handicapped, a library and a sporting goods store. The center offers a variety of programs for a wide range of ages, including physical and mental training. It also hosts local, national, and international tournaments throughout the year. They include the Alex Podolaski International Youth Tournament (named for a former coach at the center) and the Yaakov Orvi Master’s Tournament, with players ages twenty five to eighty andfrom all over Israel.
In addition to its tennis programs, the center supervises community programs for youth at riskimmigrant absorption program for children of Ethiopian descent and a special developmental program for children with physical disabilities.
The youth at risk program features comprehensive and holistic programs that combine sport, socialization and role-modeling within a pressure-free and nurturing environment where children can feel appreciated, loved and encouraged to develop positively. They receive help with homework and counseling on broader social issues involving family and friends.
The immigrant assimilation program is designed to empower Ethiopian children to help ease their transition into Israeli society and transcend social and cultural barriers via sport and educational workshops.
The special needs program provides a nurturing environment where children and adults with disabilities can feel comfortable and valued for who they are and what they can do, rather than singled-out for what they cannot do.
Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Israel Tennis Center - JERUSALEM
The Ben B. and Joyce E. Eisenberg Israel Tennis Center in Jerusalem opened in July 1981 in the neighborhood of Katamon with the help of the South African Jewish community. The center is named in honor of Joyce and Ben Eisenberg, two of the most generous supporters of the Israel Tennis Centers.
According to Ian Froman, one of the six original founders of the Israel Tennis Centers, the idea for a tennis center in Jerusalem was suggested to Mayor Teddy Kollek. Kollek was invited to the tennis center in Ramat Hasharon for the purpose of showing him how impressive the center was and how much a tennis center would add to the vitality of Jerusalem. He watched a showcase exhibition of the children playing tennis and received an explanation of the activities at the center. At the conclusion of his visit, he asked if there was another center that he could visit. He was told that the closest one was the tennis center in Jaffa. When he arrived at the center, he went straight into the bathroom. When he came out, he told those around him, “I will help you build a tennis center in Jerusalem.” When he was asked what convinced him to do so, he replied, “The moment I saw that the bathrooms were as clean and spotless in Jaffa as they were in Ramat Hasharon, I knew I was doing business with serious people, and I agreed to help open a tennis center in Jerusalem.”
The first manager of the center was Danny Freeman, who served for twenty one years. Other managers following him were Danny Gelley, Yuval Krutchy and Ilan Maman. From 2012 until the present day, Morris Ohayon serves as the manager of the center. He grew up across the street from the tennis center and worked as a guard and a coach upon the completion of his army service.
Activities at the Center
The center has 20 illuminated courts, one of which is enclosed, a 2,000-seat stadium, a practice wall, gym, conference room, cafeteria, and a sports equipment store. The center offers a variety of programs for all ages, including a motor skills development program (ages 4–6), a mini tennis program (ages 6–8), a tennis program for ages 8–18, a competitive program, and a leisure tennis program for adults.
The center also organizes many different programs for the benefit of the community, such as coexistence projects, the twinned kindergartens in which Arab and Jewish preschoolers come to the center and participate in mobility training together and a doubles coexistence program for elementary school students in the afternoon. Other programs include activities for children from Ethiopian immigrant families in conjunction with the Ganim community center in Kiryat Menachem and the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, programs for ultra-orthodox children and teenagers at risk, and programs for children with special needs.
Competitions at the Center and Famous Alumni
The center has hosted many local, national and international tournaments over the years. They include the prestigious Eisenberg International Tournament, the Israel Tennis Championship featuring youth and young adult divisions, tournaments of the Maccabi Games, and the Championship of the Israel Tennis Centers. One of the most important events at the center took place in 1984 when Israel defeated a heavily favored team from Poland 5 - 0 in Davis Cup competition. In the same stadium in 1987, an exhibition match was held between ITC alum Amos Mansdorf and the legendary tennis star, Jimmy Connors.
Over the years, many players who grew up at the center were victorious at the Youth Israel Tennis Championship and many other national tournaments. The most famous alumni are Andy Ram, Davis Cup team member and 2008 Australian Mens Doubles Champion, who began playing at the center at the age of five, and Julia Glushko, who won the Israel Tennis Championships and represented Israel at the Federation Cup, who also began playing at the center as a young child.
Israel Tennis Center - OFAKIM
The Israel Tennis Center in Ofakim opened in 1990 with a special ceremony that included a showcase exhibition of tennis players from Israel and abroad. Within the first weeks of its opening, hundreds of children arrived at the center to play. The goal was to have a tennis center in the periphery of Israel accessible to the nearby low socioeconomic population that could be enjoyed by local children. The center was founded thanks to the generous funding of British and South African Jewry, together with the Jewish Agency and the Kennedy Li Foundation of England.
Activities at the center
The center has 6 tennis courts, an indoor practice wall, a classroom, bomb shelters, and is handicap accessible. It offers a wide variety of programs for children, teenagers, and adults. There is a motor skill development program (ages 4–6), a mini tennis program (ages 6–8), a tennis program (ages 8–18), and a competitive program for gifted children that integrates physical training. There is also a leisure tennis program for both beginners and advanced ages 18 and over. The center is represented by five groups in the tennis league: two for the youth division and three for the young adult division. Over the course of the year, the center hosts three local tournaments during the holidays of Purim, Pesach, and Chanukah.
The center offers many programs to the community. These include programs for youth at risk in conjunction with the city municipality of Ofakim, for children with special needs, for new immigrants, and for those that want to become fluent in English. Most of the programs are funded through donations from abroad.
The first manager of the center was Shaya Azar. Following him were Moshe Chachmon, Moshe Weknin (Bogo), Ilan Maman, and Benny Schwartz. From 2008 until the present day, Hayim Zion has served as the manager of the center.
Harry and Evelyn Burg Israel Tennis Center - ARAD
The Harry and Evelyn Burg ITC - Arad opened on May 1, 1979 through the initiative and support of Arad Mayor (and Israel’s former Secretary of the Treasury) Avraham Beyga Shohat. Initially, there were only two tennis courts. However, when the ITC agreed to subsidize the program, hundreds of children arrived to play at the center to play. After five years, 3 additional courts were built plus a practice wall and an all-purpose building. Three years later, two more courts were built. As of today, the center has seven courts, three practice walls, and three bomb shelters. The center is named for Harry and Evelyn Burg, whose generous donation helped found the tennis center.
The first manager of the center was Al Tannenbaum, an American Jew from Philadelphia who immigrated to Israel in 1978 and settled in Arad. He served the center for twenty three years. Einav Shabach then took his place as the Manager of the center, followed by Svetlana Jenkin. In 2011, Tannenbaum returned to his former position and continues to serve as the manager of the center. Famous alumni of the center include Gilat Barzilai, Avichai Tzahala, and Shiri Zlotikman, the wife of Andy Ram.
In April 2001, the center lost Danny Draee, one of its most famous alumni, when he was killed in an army operation in Lebanon at the age of 20. At the request of his family, a monument was constructed in his memory by the Israel Defense Forces. Every summer, the center hosts a local tournament to honor his memory and the contributions he made to the center.
Nussdorf - Mark Families Israel Tennis Center - JAFFA
The Israel Tennis Center in Jaffa was opened in May 1979, the second center to open after the ITC’s inaugural launch in Ramat Hasharon. In the beginning, 8 courts were built, followed seven years later by 9 more. The center was opened with the help of the mayor of Tel Aviv, Shlomoh Lahet. He understood that building a tennis center in Yafo would give children in the low socioeconomic class the opportunity to play sports even if their families couldn’t afford it. The center was named in honor of the Nussdorf Mark families in 2014, generating much interest amongst the residents of the city. The ‘white sport’, which was until then a symbol of high social status and wealth, had arrived in Yafo. People were impressed by the beautiful new courts and the large grassy lawn. Every day, scores of children and adults came to the center to play. The first manager of the center was Zev Marenstein. In the years following, Martin Gilbert, Ilan Ehrlich, and Shaya Azar served as managers. Since 2007, the manager has been Rakefet Binyamini, a former champion in Israel Girls’ Tennis, and a player for the Israel Federation team. She had grown up playing at the center in Ramat Hasharon.
Activities at the center
The tennis center has 16 illuminated courts, a stadium that can hold 300 spectators, a gym, an event room, a television room, a practice wall, a lawn, cafeteria, a sports equipment store, handicap accessibility, bomb shelters, showers, and bathrooms. The center offers a variety of tennis programs for all ages. There is a preschool program, a motor skills development program (ages 4–6), a mini tennis program (ages 6–8), a tennis program for ages 8–18, a competitive tennis program, and an adult program.
The center also organizes many different programs that benefit members of the community. These programs are mainly funded by donors from Israel and abroad. They include the Twin Kindergartens Coexistence Program (Arab and Israeli kindergarteners who participate together in sports mobility training), an afterschool Coexistence Program, a program for youth at risk, a female empowerment program, and a program for children with special needs.
Throughout the years, many players from the center in Jaffa have won the Israel Tennis Championship as well as other national and international tournaments. Well known competitors include Amir Vintrov, a player on the Israel Davis Cup team and two time Israel Men’s Champion (2010 and 2012), Amir Hadad, three time Israel Men’s Champion (2000, 2001, 2004) and Eyal Ehrlich, Israel Men’s Champion (1996.)
Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis Center - Ashkelon
The Marjorie Sherman Israel Tennis Center in Ashkelon was founded in 1981 with the help of donations from the Sherman family of England. It was traditionally supported by many British Jews as a part of an integral relationship between Ashkelon and British Jewry. The center currently serves more than 2,000 children, teenagers, and adults, offering tennis and fitness programs as well as other activities benefitting the community. Constructed over an 8 month period, the center’s opening ceremony took place in April 1982 with the participation of many guests, most of them British Jews. Notable attendees included Chaim Herzog, Ashkelon Mayor Eli Dayan, Ian Fruman, Peter Collins, Freddy Krivin and world tennis star Shlomoh Glickstein, who grew up in Ashkelon. During the ceremony, the guests enjoyed exhibitions by the children, including a match involving between wheelchair players.
Activities at the Center
There are 17 courts at the center, including a stadium that seats 500 people. Facilities also include a fitness center, indoor training wall, bomb shelters, changing rooms, bathrooms, cafeteria, and a retail store that sells tennis equipment and racquet weaving. The center offers programs, including those for pre-schoolers, motor skill development (ages 4–6), mini tennis (ages 6–8), a competitive program for children ages 8–18, and tennis programs for adults. The center also offers community programs that are funded primarily by donations. These are designed to help children and adults with special needs, a youth-at-risk program, and a program for children from the Ethiopian community.
Tournaments at the center and famous alumni
During the year, there are different tournaments (international, national, and local) that take place at the center for children, teenagers, and adults. During April, May, and November, there are international tournaments for teenagers and adults with tennis players participating from all over the world. Beginning in the early 1980s, during the month of July, there is a national youth tournament that is named for Moshe Glickstein (Shlomo Glickstein’s father).
Famous alumni from the center include Ronen Moralli, distinguished Israeli tennis ambassador and coach of the Israel Davis Cup team. During the years, he has trained champions such as Harel Levi, Andy Ram, and Yoni Ehrlich. Another alumnus Dima Lipman, emigrated to Israel at age 6 from the Former Soviet Union and immediately began to play at the center. Today he is one of the top tennis judges in Israel and around the world, and manager of the tournament department of the Israel Tennis Centers. The first manager of the center in Ashkelon was Menashe Mintz, followed by Danny Gelley, Benny Schwartz, Ron Ketzev, Moshe Wecknin (Bogo), Yossi Malcha, and Shaya Azar, who has been the manager of the center since 2010.
Activities during Operation Protective Edge
During Operation Protective Edge, which took place in July and August 2014, the center was forced to close by Israel’s home front command. As a result, the children from the center, many of whom participated in competitive programs, were unable to play. However, since the ITC has 14 centers around the country, and with the aid of donations from both Israel and abroad, these children were relocated to centers in the central and northern parts of the country. There they were hosted by different families for a number of days which enabled them to resume their playing and training.
- Shahar Pe'er (career-high singles ranking of # 11 in 2011; # 14 in doubles)
- Anna Smashnova (career-high singles ranking of # 15 in 2003)
- Amos Mansdorf (career-high singles ranking of # 18 in 1987; # 67 in doubles)
- Shlomo Glickstein (career-high singles ranking of # 22 in 1982; # 28 in doubles)
- Dudi Sela (career-high singles ranking of # 29 in 2009)
- Harel Levy (career-high singles ranking of # 30 in 2001)
- Shahar Perkiss (career-high singles ranking of # 53 in 1985)
- Gilad Bloom (career-high singles ranking of # 61 in 1990; # 62 in doubles)
- Tzipora Obziler (career-high singles ranking of # 75 in 2007)
- Noam Okun (career-high singles ranking of # 95 in 2002)
- Noam Behr (career-high singles ranking of # 127 in 2001, # 109 in doubles)
- Eyal Ran (career-high singles ranking of # 138 in 1997, # 71 in doubles)
- Hila Rosen (career-high singles ranking of # 138 in 1999)
- Ilana Berger (career-high singles ranking of # 149 in 1992)
- Oren Motevassel (career-high singles ranking of # 161 in 1997)
- Yevgenia Savransky (career-high singles ranking of # 172 2006)
- Amir Hadad (career-high singles ranking of # 180 in 2003, # 87 in doubles)
- Andy Ram (career-high singles ranking of # 187 in 2002, # 5 in doubles)
- Yoni Erlich (career-high singles ranking of # 292, # 5 in doubles)
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