Recently at this year’s U.S. Open, MyJewishLearning spoke with Israeli tennis superstar, Shahar Peer. At 22 years old, Shahar Peer is ranked #34 in the worldÂ and has recently won the Guangzhou Open in China and the Tashkent Open in Uzbekistan. Even with her busy schedule Shahar was gracious enough to answer some questions for us.
MJL: Unlike other players, you have an entire religious and cultural community who stands behind you, do you feel that support at every game? Have any Bubbe’s invited you over for chicken soup and a place to stay?
Yes, definitely. There are always Jews and Israelis coming to support me. Over the years, I have made really strong connections with Jews in cities all over the world. Now, instead of staying in a hotel every city I go to, I have different families who welcomes me in in a number of cities. Even if a family does not invite me to stay with them, I have received overwhelming support over the years during my matches. At almost every single match I have played, I have had fans cheering me on, Israelis or Jews. This has always been fun and extremely motivational for me. One event in particular in which I received amazing support was when I was not allowed in Dubai. I received hundreds of emails from Jews around the world.
MJL: For many people around the world, Israel is a symbol of conflict, but your status as an athlete shows Americans and others that Israel does have a face beyond the conflict. How does it make you feel to be such a symbol?
SP: While I am only an athlete, I do realize the importance of being an athlete from Israel. I do think I help bridge gaps and show people that there is more to this country than conflict. I hope there will never be any connection between politics and sports, but i do think that sports can help put Israel in a different light from what is seen on the news.