Friday, August 30, 2019

Tennis in Palestine


Issam Khalidi

    The true beginning of tennis in Palestine can be traced to the 1920s. It was practiced by members of few clubs such as the Jerusalem Sports Club (founded in April 1921 by the British administration), Cercle Sportife Al-Muntada al-Riyadi in Jaffa (founded in 1911 by Palestinian intellectuals, later it came under the British administration), the YMCA (founded in the beginning of the twentieth century), Arab SC in Jerusalem (founded in 1928), Maccabi Tel Aviv and Nathanya Tennis Club.

   The first club to start annual tournaments in tennis was the Cercle Sportife in 1919, followed by the Jerusalem SC in 1921. The Arab newspaper Filastin reported about a tennis match between these two clubs:
“A match in tennis was held Sunday in Jerusalem between Jaffa Sports Club [Cercle Sportife] and al-Quds club [Jerusalem Sports Club].” [1]

    In 1931 the Gaza Tennis Club was founded:
 “The opening ceremony of the Tennis Club was held at the municipality's land next to the park. Among the attendees were the Governor of the Gaza district Mr. Billard and his secretary, Shawwa, members of the municipality, an elite of dignitaries, teachers, and ladies. Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Khadra and the Mayor Fawzi Bishara opened the ceremony. Each has addressed in his speech an aspect of sports and then invited the Governor of to open the courts; he talked about sports games and those who paid tribute to this useful activity.”[2]

  Since 1931 the YMCA started to organize an annual tournament in tennis that lasted until 1946. The Arab newspaper Al-Carmel announced that “the sports director of the YMCA in Jerusalem reported that the second game of tennis for the Palestinians will take place on August 22-23 [1932] on courts of the of the Association. This tournament is being played under the patronage of the High Commissioner.”[3]
   Arab members of this association took part in these tournaments, Palestine Bulletin reported that Malak beat Tenenbaum 6-3, 6-3; Farradj beat F. Dadis 6-3, 6-3. Mouchabek beat A. Malak 7-5, 5-7, 6-3. [4]

   Maccabi SC in Tel Aviv organized annual championships in tennis. The Championships were under the auspices of the – Zionist-dominated - Federation of Amateur Sports Clubs in Palestine FASCP, which body was affiliated to the Federation of International Lawn Tennis Clubs and was under L.T.A. Rules. [5] The Rajwan Brothers were the club’s best players. [6]
The Lawn Tennis Federation of Egypt invited the Palestine Federation (FASCP) to participate in the International Lawn Tennis Championships of Egypt, that should have been staged in March 1946. [7]

   Palestine Post reported about a match between the Jerusalem SC and the YMCA where Arab ladies took part:
 “The Ladies of the Jerusalem Sports Club were at home last Saturday in a return match against the Y.M.C.A and were successful in reversing the result of the previous game by winning an exciting event by 3-2. The Club was fortunate in having Mrs. Campbell Murray – who at one time was on the reserve list for England – to strengthen the side. The individual teams were well matched and particular mention might be made of the game in which Mrs. Sharp was successful after a five-game encounter against Miss A. Halaby. The following are the results, the Jerusalem Sports Club members being mentioned first: Mrs. Campbell Murray beat Miss K. Abdo 3/0; Mrs. Sharp beat Miss A. Halaby 3/2; Mrs. Phillips lost to Miss N. Halaby 2/3; Mrs. Kendall lost to Miss K. Hishmeh 1/3; Miss J. Kenniff beat Miss R. Thouma 3/2.” [8]

   Filastin reported in November 1931 that "The annual Palestinian tennis games in Jaffa last Sunday afternoon after four days with great success. It was attended by many sports enthusiasts throughout Palestine and Transjordan, a number that reached 500, which indicates the success of these games. At the awards ceremony his honor Mr. Alfred Rock gave a welcoming speech in which he thanked the president and members of the Cercle Sportife for organizing such sports event. Prizes were distributed to the winners: Atallah Iqdis and Mr. Emil Bardqash won the second place in men’s double. Mr. Bolani and Mr. Hudson won men’s single prize. Mr. Iskandar Dabbas – the referee – was honored with an award."[9] At these games women also took part in single, double and double mixed.

    At the annual Palestine Tennis Championship in July 1933, cups were presented by:
1. Sir Herbert Samuel Cup and Colonel Leo Cup for single men's match.
2. Circle Sportife Cup and Jaffa Municipal Cup for single women's match.
3. Edmond Rock Cup for mixed match [is played the same as doubled].
4. Mrs. Sonders Cup for the double ladies’ match.
5. Mr. Nobel Cup for men's double.
  “In men's singles Nathan won over Hilburn, Eastwood over Tannenbaum, Thabit over Nashashibi, Manza over Armstrong, Majdalani over Elias Bardqash, and Farah Ali.”  Arab competitors participated in these matches, including Constantine Bardqash, Elias Bardqash, Nashashibi, Majdalani, Farah, Thabet and Salem.”[10]

    In 1938 the Arab Sports Club in Jerusalem started organizing tournaments in tennis. In August 1940 Filastin reported that "the third annual tennis tournament started among the members of the Arab Sports Club in Jerusalem. The courts were full of a large number of spectators and members of the club. Mayor Mustafa Al-Khalidi presented the prizes. This year, the tennis committee of this club is supervised by Mr. Amin Nasr, the Registrar of the Central Court in Jerusalem, Mr. Anwar Nusseibeh, the Governor Magistrate Mr. Ali Dajani and Ibrahim Nusseibeh."[11]

  In this tournament Anwar Nusseibeh won the Trophy of the Mayor. Also, he and his brother Mahmoud won the trophy presented by Boutaji in the double matches. They won over Dr. Bahauddin Al-Nimri and his brother Ala Eddin and won the cup presented by Judge Anton Effendi Atallah and Amin Nasr. Ms. Mary Zakarian and Mun’im Abdel Hadi won the cup presented by Najati Nashashibi in double matches.[12]
   Anwar Nusseibeh played delightful tennis and had a particularly good tournament, not only winning the singles, but in partnership with Adolph winning the Men's doubles; Nusseibeh had previously defeated Adolph in the singles final.”[13]

  Among the best players in this sport were the brothers Hazem and Mahmoud Nusseibeh. They started playing at Victoria College in Alexandria and then at the YMCA in Jerusalem. The Nusseibeh brothers began playing at Victoria College in Alexandria, where Hazem won an international tournament under the age of 18. During his studies at the American University of Beirut, he won the Tennis Championship in 1941-1943.[14]
   It’s worth noting that many young men from Palestine studied at the American University of Beirut where tennis was among the main sports there. Hilmi Hanoun, a Palestinian student and athlete who studied at this university from 1933 to 1935, was the captain of the university’s tennis team at that time.

  In August 1946 the Y.M.C.A announced that it had decided to discontinue its Lawn Tennis Championships for Palestinians. “It will however, in future run an Open Tennis Tournament. The trophies previously presented for the Championships for Palestinians will now be awarded for the Open Championship titles.”[15]
   Also, in October 1946 officials at the Jerusalem SC announced that “they were unable this year to run their Annual Open Lawn Tennis Championships, but the Club tennis enthusiasts were amply compensated for the loss of this tournament by participation in one of the best Club Championships ever run.[16]

Post Nakba
In 1969, the Higher Council for Youth Care was formed. After the events of September, he moved from Amman to Beirut. Its first conference was held in 1974 in Souk El Gharb (the name was changed to Supreme Council for Youth and Sports). At that time many federations were established. The tennis federation included  table tennis, golf and squash federations).[17]

    After the establishment of the Palestinian Authority the Supreme Council for Youth and Sports in Lebanon was suspended in 1994. The Palestinian Tennis Association was founded in mid 1995s its first elections were held in 1996. Located in Beit Sahour. It was admitted to the Asian and International Tennis Federation in 1998. [18]It is headed by Issa Rishmawi and members of Samar Mousa Al-Araj, Amin Zaid, Nazer Al-Zughayer and Khalil Maarouf.
In Gaza Sector there is the Palestinian Tennis Federation headed by Dr. Damen al-Wahidi. [19]


[1] Filastin, 28 August 1928.
[2] Filastin, 16 September 1931.
[3] Al-Carmel, 13 August 1932.
[4] Palestine Post, 31 August 1933.
[5] Palestine Post, 26 September 1941
[6] Palestine Post, 21 October 1935.
[7] Palestine Post, 17 February 1946.
[8] Palestine Post, 26 February 1941.
[9] Filastin, 28 November 1931
[10] Filastin, August 1933.
[11] Filastin, 15 August 1940.
[12] Filastin, 18 August 1940.
[13] Palestine Post, 7 October 1946.
[14] An e-mail message from Hazem Nusseibeh to the author.
[15] Palestine Post, 20 August 1946.
[16] Palestine Post, 7 October 1946.
[17] Ejjawi Khalid, Al-Haraka al-Riyadiayya al-Falastiniyya fi al-Shatat, [Palestine Sports Movement in Diaspora] (Damascus: al-Dar al-Wataniyya al-Jadida, 2002) 485.

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