Henri Doukhan doesn’t have an easy life story and it is certainly not one which usually leads to a bright and positive future. Yet tennis was there to save him and put him in a completely different place in life. Today, at age 14, Henri lives in the Dormitory Academy at the ITC – Ramat Hasharon, studies at a local school, feels at home and dreams of a future in a game which he loves so dearly.
At age 8, Henri Doukhan immigrated to Israel from his native France. He didn’t speak a word of Hebrew and his parents stayed in France – only his sister, 15 years his senior, lived in Israel. Aside from his sister, Henri has three older brothers who live in France, one of them he has never met or spoken to. Henri’s parents divorced and his mother came to Israel to see him and his sister until she immigrated fully too. Together with his sister, the three of them live in Eilat. Henri’s father stayed in France and they still have contact even if he has never come to Israel to see him.
Henri loves sports and at age 9 he started playing tennis at a club in Eilat. He never envisaged it would become anything professional; he just wanted to enjoy it. “It was very difficult for me in the beginning when I arrived in Israel. I was without my mom and dad, I didn’t speak the language and my sister was the one who looked after me”, says Henri. “Tennis became something serious in my life, I was playing twice a week and I always stayed after my lessons to practice by myself. I knew I enjoyed tennis a lot, but it costs a lot of money and we didn’t have any. In addition, I struggled at school, I wasn’t a good student and the language remained a problem. I started getting better at tennis, after a year I become a competitive player and after three years the level was no longer high enough in Eilat. I heard about the dormitory in Ramat Hasharon and I thought moving there would be very beneficial. I came for many tests, I was accepted and at 13 years old, I left Eilat to move there. Since then, I have not stopped improving my tennis and my grades in school”.
The manager of the dormitory academy, Udi Dahan, beams with pride when he talks about Henri. He says: “When Henri arrived in Ramat Hasharon, he had many difficulties in school and he was a troublemaker. This year, his behavior along with his tennis and his grades at school have improved so much. I really believe that the discipline he has learned from living in the dormitory and from playing competitive tennis has helped him a great deal to gain the focus needed to succeed”. Eli Sayag, Henri’s coach for the past year and a half: “Every day before practice, Henri hugs me and tells me he loves me. He is a child with a lot of love in his heart. He really is a great kid – he loves to laugh, to play with his friends and to have fun! Looking at him today, I can’t believe how much his tennis has improved. He has not had an easy life and if he believes in himself enough, I am sure he will become a success story”.
Henri concludes: “Tennis is my life, without it I would have stayed in Eilat with nothing to do and no goals in my life. Tennis changed me and gave me so many good things – especially the dormitory in which I feel so comfortable, like I’m at home. When I am on the courts, I feel alive, the people here make me feel at home and like I am with my family. Udi Dahan, the manager of the dormitory and my coach Eli Sayag are like a fathers to me. My dream is to be a great tennis player and to stay in tennis, because this sport is my whole life. Thanks to the ITC – Ramat Hasharon, I will succeed”.