LaVon Mercer calls himself "Israel's biggest ambassador." Born in 1958, LaVon grew up in the town of Metter, in
South Georgia. He was raised by his grandparents until their deaths. He was adopted as a ward of the state when he
His height is given variously as 6 foot 8 inches to 6 foot 11 inches. and he is a basketball natural. He
was an NBA draftee in 1980 to the San Antonio Spurs and soon came to play for Hapoel Tel Aviv. He stayed in Israel for
14 years, playing for Hapoel and later Maccabi Tel Aviv, becoming an Israeli citizen and serving two years in the IDF.
He says, "Sports gave me the family that I wanted, the discipline that I needed and the belief in myself that I had to
obtain in-order to reach true professional sport plateau.
LaVon's trip to Israel turned into a 14-year stay. During that time he raised a family, helped raise Maccabi Tel Aviv
toward the European championships, participated in the Israeli Olympic basketball team, became an Israeli citizen and
served two years in the Israeli Defense Forces.
Today he is a coach at Spelman College in Atlanta, and he travels widely, lecturing about Israel to anyone who will
listen. His favorite lecture gimmick is a paper bag. Sometimes he just shows the bag, "Nobody would notice this bag
here, but in Israel, it would be noticed immediately - someone might think it was a plastic bomb."
Sometimes he invites audience members to open a paper bag and look inside. It may contain assorted screws and
nails, like the bombs made by terrorists. His explains that things aren't what they seem. The kids throwing rocks in the
West Bank are backed by grownups with AK-47s. .
LaVon Mercer - Israel's Biggest Ambassador
Israelis have had their way of life threatened by violence, a challenge that many
African-American communities face daily.
Back in Georgia, LaVon tells the African-American community:
The challenges I faced [in Israel] are the same ones we are dealing with here"
He isn't referring to Israeli Zionist "racism" though. He continues:
I tell whoever will listen - what you see is only part of the picture. Don't fool
yourselves into thinking that there aren't armed men behind those Palestinian kids.
Israelis have had their way of life threatened by violence, a challenge that many African-American
communities face daily.
People here have no idea what it going on in Israel. Their knowledge of the Middle East amounts to the 15 seconds
they see on CNN. The picture they get is distorted. They see the classic picture of kids throwing rocks at armed
soldiers, who are shooting at them. Anyone who sees that immediately identifies with the children. But I tell whoever
will listen - what you see is only part of the picture. Don't fool yourselves into thinking that there aren't armed men
behind those Palestinian kids."
There are many who support Israel [here]. But there are also many who oppose it. Even before I started to lecture,
I found myself arguing with people. People challenged me because of what they get from the media here. I told them,
'Don't be such fools. I was there. I lived there.'
LaVon served two years in the Israel Defense Forces