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Tennis in Palestine
By Issa Rishmawi
In 1994, Mrs. Samar Araj Mousa, the head of the athletic department at Bethlehem University, and Mr. Issa Rishmawi introduced the first national Palestinian tennis tournament. Many players from all over Palestine participated in this tournament, which has become a regular annual event.
The Palestinian Tennis Association (PTA) was founded in 1996. After the establishment of the PTA, some of its members visited most of the municipalities in Palestine. They asked each municipality for a piece of land in order to build tennis courts. Unfortunately, the municipalities were unable to accommodate them.
As part of the PTA’s desire to promote tennis among Palestinians, tennis lessons were offered to all age groups. Mr. Rishmawi and Mrs. Araj personally provided financial support to ensure that all course expenses were covered. The number of tennis players increased every year, which made it necessary to find another coach to help with teaching. A coach was brought from Germany, but unfortunately he was unable continue because of the second Intifada.
In 1998 the PTA became a Class C member of the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and the Asian Tennis Federation (ATF). And in 2004, four players were sent to Jordan to participate in a tennis coaching course that was sponsored by the ITF. One year later a female player, Donia Alsous, was sent to Oman to participate in the West Asian Annual Tournament for players under 13 years of age. She ranked fifth in 2005 and third in 2006.
Mr. Rishmawi has participated in many Annual General Meetings for the ITF and ATF. These meetings were held in various countries such as Holland, Turkey, Morocco, Mexico, Qatar, Uzbekistan, and Thailand.
Many Palestinian universities, such as Bethlehem University in Bethlehem, Al-Najah University in Nablus, and Khadouri College in Tulkarem, include tennis courses among their university elective courses, which gives students the opportunity to learn about and play this sport.
In order to encourage the Palestinian government and other potential sources of funding to support the building of tennis courts in Palestine, we must find creative ways to promote tennis among Palestinians. One way is to include tennis lessons in the curricula of Palestinian schools and to allow children to experience the fun and challenge of tennis as a sport. If more people become tennis enthusiasts, there will be greater demand for quality tennis courts and more potential to create Palestinian tennis professionals.
A volunteer from the United States signed a contract with Mr. Hani Al-Hayek, the mayor of Beit Sahour, to build six to eight tennis courts in Beit Sahour. This project makes the dream of many Palestinians come true and gives them hope that one day they will become professional tennis players.
Issa Rishmawi is the president of the Palestinian Tennis Association. He can be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This Week in Palestine