Israel’s beloved basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv is headed to New York this fall, in a Madison Square Garden match up against Italy’s Olimpia Milano (for tickets click here).

Jspace recently caught up with Maccabi Tel Aviv’s shooting guard and small forward Sylven Landesberg, who is a Brooklyn-born Jew who grew up in Queens, to talk sports, patriotism, and why he’s proud to represent the Jewish state.

Jspace: When did you first develop a love of basketball?

Landesberg: From the first time I started playing, at 5 years old. It became my favorite sport, I appreciate it every day I’m able to play.

How did you get involved in the Maccabi franchise?

It started five years ago when I came to Israel to play for a team in the north, in Haifa. I decided to make “Aliyah” and become a citizen. After two years there, I got the opportunity to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv, the best club in Europe. You don’t turn such an opportunity down and it’s been a blessing.

How does it feel to represent Israel on an international level?

It’s an amazing feeling anywhere you go, not only when we play in the US – there are supporters all over the world. I’m proud to represent Maccabi Tel Aviv and Israel. It’s surreal sometimes, I’ve never been a part of something like this.

How do you mentally and physically prepare for a big game?

I’m a firm believer of just being ready all the time. My whole career, from my grandfather, a Holocaust survivor, to my father – they’re all believers of hard work. There’s a bunch of talented people out there who don’t do enough with their talent. My off seasons are very tough, rigorous. I’m always ready, never take a day off during the season.

What is the biggest misconception some people have about Israel?

Obviously, people think the country is in a state of war, that it’s all desert. It’s like the images you see on the media. They don’t portray Israel as it’s really like. I had some friends who came over and I didn’t tell them what to expect and they were so surprised and had the time of their lives. Now they want to come back every year.

Maccabi Tel Aviv and Olimpia Milano square off at Madison Square Garden on October 4 at 12:30pm. Click here for tickets, and use coupon code JSPACE to get 15 percent off. 

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