At the age of six, Elijah moved to Haifa from his hometown Acre with his family for a fresh start. There, with the support of his family, he followed his dream and started playing soccer for a local youth team. However, a year later, his father passed away, and left the family of four in a state of shock and with shattered dreams.
“I had to quit soccer after my mother could no longer afford to pay the club,” Elijah recalls, “but my mother heard about the activities for youth through the social worker at House of Grace.” Eight years ago, Elijah had met Bishara, House of Grace’s sports coach, for the first time. It did not take Bishara too long to discover the hidden talent of Elijah and realize the great potential he has.
“He was advancing very fast,” says Bishara, “playing for House of Grace youth team Elijah soon was well recognized by other clubs as the best youth player in the league.” However, joining a professional junior club was financially impossible. “Knowing his situation, I decided to do something about it,” stated Bishara.
Unlike in Western Europe, soccer academies that funnel into local professional teams are not available. On top of this, Arabs make up only a small amount of the professional players in Israel. If Elijah were to pursue his dream of playing professional soccer, he would have to attend High School like any other teenager but also train and play on a team on his own time.
As Elijah graduated youth league, Bishara voluntarily took it upon himself to train Elijah professionally. Alongside the professional training, Elijah would come to the House of Grace learning center to receive help with his academic studies. While this was a long and difficult period for Elijah he was getting exponentially better as a player which was all that mattered to him. Finally, one of the bigger “pre-professional” teams in Haifa, who required a goalie, noticed Elijah’s exceptional skill. After a tryout, Elijah was accepted into the team and received a partial sports scholarship.
“My dream would not come true if I didn’t have Bishara’s support and guidance,” says Elijah, “House of Grace, and especially Bishara, helped me to achieve my dream.” Almost 17, Elijah comes often to House of Grace to use the learning center, but also to help train the youth group; “I want to help them fulfill their dreams…,” he says.