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Omri Casspi. Bringing mother along Photo: EPA
Omri Casspi. Bringing mother along Photo: EPA
Barack and Michelle Obama light Hanukkah menorah (archives) Photo: AFP
Barack and Michelle Obama light Hanukkah menorah (archives) Photo: AFP

Obama invites Casspi to light menorah

First Israeli to play in NBA to visit White House next Thursday for traditional Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony. 'I will represent Israel and the Jewish community,' he says

Yair Katan
Published: 11.28.13, 14:34 / Israel Culture

Omri Casspi was the first Israeli to play in the NBA, the world's best basketball league, and this season he is proving that he belongs there, winning acclaim for his performance on the court as the Houston Rockets forward.


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As a high-profile Israel in the United States he has also won a great honor: Casspi will soon replace his Rockets jersey with a festive suit and travel from Texas to Washington after being invited to the White House to meet President Barack Obama and light Hanukkah candles, as part of the White House's traditional-symbolic menorah lighting ceremony which will be held next Thursday.


Like a good Jewish son, Casspi will bring along his mother, Ilana, who had already scheduled a trip to the US to visit her boy. Now she will also get to meet America's No. 1 citizen.


Casspi told US media after receiving the prestigious invitation, "I’m so excited. A dream come true to be invited to the White House. I always thought it would be as part of a championship-winning team, but this is great.


"I will represent Israel and the Jewish community," he added.


Casspi, 25, fulfilled every basketball player's dream when he was drafted for the NBA by the Sacramento Kings in 2009. He played there for two seasons, and in 2011 he was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers for two seasons.


In July 2013, he signed with the Houston Rockets as a free agent, and has so far demonstrated great abilities in the team's uniforms. Yet Casspi is no longer the only Israeli in the NBA, after being joined this season by Gal Mekel of the Dallas Mavericks.



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