Zack Rosen and Ramone Moore find life different playing in Israel

Former Penn guard Zack Rosen says his experience playing in Israel has been unlike any other. Hapoel Holon
Former Penn guard Zack Rosen says his experience playing in Israel has been unlike any other. Hapoel Holon
Posted: December 03, 2012

A year ago, Zack Rosen and Ramone Moore were Big Five rivals. Penn's Rosen was Big Five player of the year, Temple's Moore the runner-up. In the summertime, they often worked out together.

This season, they both landed jobs a five-minute drive apart, for different teams in the top professional league in Israel. Moore in the outskirts of Tel Aviv, Rosen in Holon, just south.

"If Tel Aviv is Manhattan, Holon is Queens," Rosen explained by e-mail. "It's a city with a lot of spirit."

Of course, neither Rosen nor Moore knew exactly what they were signing on for, with sirens, safe rooms, and rocket threats - and "Iron Dome" technology to take out the rockets.

"It's a little different getting into your car, heading to practice, and hearing a siren go off," Rosen said about the hostilities that broke out before the Israeli-Hamas cease-fire took hold last month. "You have to jet out of the car and duck in a hallway or a shelter and wait until you hear the 'boom.' "

He was referring to Israel's air-defense system that intercepted short-range rockets. Rosen was impressed by its effectiveness.

Moore remembers hearing four or five sirens the first night rockets started flying.

"Get away from all windows," Moore said was the operative task. "The day before I left, a missile hit two or three minutes from where I lived."

Talking on the phone, Moore was back in Philadelphia. He hadn't waited for any cease-fire. A number of American players have returned home.

This wasn't merely a safety issue for Moore. After signing with a top team, Hapoel Tel Aviv, he found it hard to break into the rotation, which was already set when he arrived after the season began. If the basketball situation were different, he said, he would have stuck it out. And if the rockets weren't flying, he would have stuck it out.

Originally, Moore had thought the living part was the easy adjustment. He found it very "Americanized," he said. Until those sirens started. Moore said one big issue was that his apartment didn't have anything that could be considered a safe room. There was no basement. His door opened to the outside. "I didn't know where to go," Moore said of when warning sirens blared. His American teammates had a better setup, he said, with an internal stairway where they would go when they heard a siren.

Moore got home Thanksgiving morning, to a relieved mother. His agent is looking for another overseas job. Otherwise, Moore said, he's planning on playing domestically in the NBA Development League.

Rosen got into a different basketball situation, finding regular minutes with Hapoel Holon, a team further down the standings.

"The style of play is very tactical," Rosen said. "It's been an adjustment of finding my way and establishing my role. It takes time for teams to gel, and I think we are definitely still in the process."

Off the court, Rosen said being in Israel during these times has given him "a taste of perspective."

"Is this really happening 40 miles south of where I'm living?" Rosen said, referring to the deaths in Gaza. "Are people dying over beliefs and rights to the land? You know the people here carry on and live their lives normally amidst all the madness. They will not have their existence be altered/run by terrorists, and that's kind of amazing to see.

He added, "To be so close and so immersed really makes you question a lot of things about humanity and the world as a whole. The fact that beliefs . . . can lead to so much hatred and death is troublesome."

His own Jewish faith naturally comes into the forefront.

"I'm a spiritual, religious guy so, being in the land of Israel for me is something special," Rosen said. "For anyone who has any connection to or curiosity about faith, this is truly an amazing place. While the majority of the country is secular, seeing Jerusalem and all the sights heightens your awareness."

Already, he has found a basketball experience unlike any he's seen before.

His first practice, Rosen said, "we had a Midnight Madness type of thing, and during a drill one of the fans lit a flare and started running around the gym."

Then, he said, all of the fans took to the floor "and put us on their shoulders and started chanting. It was kind of like, 'Welcome.' "

One he'll probably never forget. That goes for Moore, too.


Contact Mike Jensen at mjensen@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @Jensenoffcampus.

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