TORONTO — When Daniel Shane visits Israel in March, he’ll be going for one specific reason: to play basketball.
From left are Madelaine Shane, Marci Trachter-Shane, Daniel Shane, Terry Shane and Jessica Shane at Daniel’s bar mitzvah in December.
In December, Daniel celebrated his bar mitzvah at Toronto’s Temple Sinai. For his bar mitzvah project he wanted to do something out of the ordinary that included his love of basketball.
“I was trying to find an organization that combines my favourite thing to do, which is basketball, and create a difference in the world in some way,” he said. “I did a bunch of research with my dad, and after a few weeks of searching, we found Peace Players International.”
Peace Players International (PPI) was established in 2001. It operates in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Cyprus, New Orleans and the Middle East. Its goal is to use basketball as a way to unite and educate children and the communities they live in.
To date, Daniel has collected approximately $2,000 and 80 basketballs for the Middle East arm of the charity. Canada Basketball, the national organization for the game, is donating jerseys for PPI to give away as prizes.
In November, Daniel made a presentation on PPI to his Grade 8 class at Crescent School, discussing what he is trying to accomplish and the trip to Israel he and his family will be taking. They are trying to get kids from his class to join them on the trip, and a few have expressed interest, Daniel’s father, Terry Shane, said.
In addition to his collecting money and basketballs for PPI, the organization put Daniel in touch with three kids in the program – two boys, one a Muslim Arab, the other a Muslim Christian, and one Jewish girl.
“I’ve been talking with them a lot lately,” Daniel said.
“The cool thing is we’ve had the most response from… the Muslim [Arab] boy. It’s interesting because [Daniel’s] getting to see that not every Palestinian is a member of Hamas,” Terry said.
“They’re actually people at the other end of this who are kids who just want to play basketball. When you see the pictures of them on Facebook with their families, they’re not so different.”
Daniel is looking forward to playing basketball with the PPI teams and meeting his “twins,” the three people he’s been exchanging e-mails with. He’s also really enjoyed seeing his dream of making a difference in the world come true, which was also the subject of his Torah portion.
“My Torah portion was about dreams, about how [Joseph’s] original dream was to see all of his family bow down to him. My part that I read was when Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him. So it’s all about dreams coming true.
“The reason I was so interested in this organization from the beginning is because it showed me even a small dream can grow, and it can grow to become something huge and make a huge difference, even if you’re just one or two people.”
“It’s really cool that he’s taken his passion and that it’s all come together like this,” Terry said. “I think he’s going to do big things when he gets older.”
Daniel’s next goal is to figure out how to send the basketballs and jerseys to Israel, as donations shipped there get taxed. They’re hoping to find people travelling to Israel who are willing to take some of the items with them and avoid PPI having to pay the tax.
In the meantime, Daniel and his family plan to continue raising money and awareness until they go to Israel.