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Love all: Freddie’s Arab-Israeli dream

26 April, 2018 — By John Gulliver

Freddie Krivine. Photo: @freddiekrivinefoundation

MAKING money out of property deals became one part of Freddie Krivine’s life, but another, in some ways, went much deeper. It ultimately became a dream of his.

Freddie, who lived in Hampstead – he died in 2005 – settled in retirement in Israel and it was there that he began to work on his dream: to help Israeli Arabs integrate in society.

How? By involving them – extraordinarily enough – in tennis!

Freddie was convinced that by teaching Arab children tennis – a game poor children would never normally play – they would gain self-confidence and a sense of self-worth that would give them a step up the ladder.

Foundation director Nick Morris, left, with trustee Michelle Barber and chairman Gershon Gan

Freddie had developed an interest in tennis in Camden and moved in Jewish liberal circles.

So, he began to make his dream a reality in Israel by setting up a special foundation encouraging Arab children, aged 8-10, to play tennis. Those who showed tournament talent were given special afternoon coaching. It cost money – but Freddie thought it was worth it, either paying for it himself or by raising funds.

There are now 1,000 Arab children who play tennis, chairman of the Freddie Krivine Foundation, Mr Gershon Gan, told me at a fund­raising evening at the Ivy Restaurant, Covent Garden, on Monday evening. Not only that, there are also 17 coaches, mostly Arabs, a few of them women, who train the children, especially those who show talent – good enough to play, hopefully, at tournaments.

Trustee Steven Hurwitz, left, Lloyd Dorfman and theatre director Sir Nicholas Hytner

“This has led to a transformation of a culture,” Mr Gan told me. “Imagine, Arab girls, who would never have even dreamt of the chance, now want to learn tennis, some dreaming, no doubt, of becoming a professional.

“One girl didn’t want to grow up just to get married – she wanted a career, a life of her own, like girls should have. Her parents didn’t want her to play tennis so she’d sneak away in the afternoons, head-scarfed, to learn the game – and her father eventually gave way. Now she is in her late teens and employed as a coach.’

Andrew Scurr –an intensive care consultant – videos the function

Mr Gan, who is in his 70s, a retired Israeli ambassador to countries in southern Africa, flew in from Israel for the evening. He had first met Freddie while posted initially to the Israeli embassy in London. Like all those I met at the function he was gripped with the idea that Freddie’s dream could help to “built bridges” between Israeli Jews and their fellow Arab citizens – the theme of his welcoming speech.

Oddly enough, he doesn’t play tennis – his game is football. In an email to the function’s main organiser, Nick Morris, a Harley Street gynecologist, he made it clear that while in London this week he would be attending Arsenal’s Europa League cup this evening (Thursday).

I assumed this ex-diplomat was an Arsenal fan. No, not Arsenal. He is a Manchester United follower!

Robert Powell, a software specialist, and physio­therapist Sammy Margo, hold a Gareth Bale Real Madrid shirt which was one of the raffle prizes

As the room filled up with guests – accoun­tants, businesspeople, software specialists, a physiotherapist who was a “sleep specialist”, and at least three medical consultants, the sort who would pay £150 for a charity meal as well as £20 for a raffle ticket, the hubbub got louder, absorbing the soothing Cole Porter tunes from the Louiza Friday Trio.

Then the main guests arrived: Lloyd Dorfman, head of the conglomerate Travelex, and Sir Nicholas Hytner.

Readers may recall that Dorfman – he told me he loves the theatre – had donated £10million to the Hytner’s former home, the National Theatre, for his cheap ticket scheme, allowing theatregoers to cough up £10-£15 for a seat.

In a little speech he told guests he had embarked on a similar scheme for the Royal Opera House.

As I left, I spotted a Rolls Royce and a chauffeur waiting, no doubt for Mr Dorfman.

The evening raised several thousand pounds for Freddie’s dream. It just shows there’s no harm in dreaming.


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