- Michelle Smith, Contributor, espnW.com
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It's 3 a.m. in a small city just outside of Tel Aviv and Alexis Gray-Lawson answers the phone.
"I'm up," Gray-Lawson. "All the Americans are up."
Just the night before, an air-raid siren -- warning of a possible incoming bomb -- woke up Gray-Lawson.
The former California standout and All-Pac-10 first-team honoree, along with the other American basketball players who are contracted with teams in Israel for the season, are now finding themselves in the middle of an international conflict, as the Palestinians in Gaza and the Israeli military drop bombs on the other's territory. And the conflict is threatening to escalate.
"The siren went off and my teammates went running to the windows and you look out and people are walking outside like it's normal," Gray-Lawson said. "When it goes off, you are supposed to have three minutes to get into the bomb shelter. Ours is downstairs. Everybody is kind of frantic."
Gray-Lawson, who is playing for Ramat Hasharon along with Indiana Fever guard Briann January, has been using Twitter to express her growing anxiety about the situation.
"So scared man this is really crazy," tweeted Gray-Lawson.
A few minutes later, she added, "Dear President Obama, Your Americans r n the middle of this Israeli and Hamas war. Can u plz come get us out of this mess. Alexis gray"
Others have done the same.
"This is crazy…like there's no point keeping us here and bombs and missiles keep dropping. This is bigger than basketball," tweeted former Duke standout Karima Christmas, who just a few weeks ago won a WNBA title with Indiana.
One team, Maccabi Bnot Ashdod, has already evacuated its American players out of the country, Gray-Lawson said. The Ashdod roster includes Charde Houston and Danielle Adams.
Other Americans, such as Tiffany Hayes, Allison Hightower and Alysha Clark, are still in Israel, said Gray-Lawson, adding that games have been postponed or canceled.
"But we haven't heard that the league has been canceled yet," she said. "A lot of the Americans are trying to get out before everything shuts down."
Gray-Lawson said her mother, home in Oakland, Calif., is very concerned.
"She's freaking out. She wants me to get out of here," Gray-Lawson said. "If this continues, she's going to send for me."
Gray-Lawson, who played most of the 2012 WNBA season with the Phoenix Mercury before she was waived after sustaining an ankle injury, is reluctant to leave on her own because she is under contract and would not be able to find another place to play this season, costing her months of income.
Many players have registered with the U.S. Embassy, so that American officials can keep track of who is in the country. Team officials have briefed the players about the nature of the conflict.
Gray-Lawson said even her Israeli teammates are scared.
"Nobody wants to be caught in a war," Gray-Lawson said. "We could hear bombs going off at practice, people are going into bomb shelters. The traffic is ridiculous in Tel Aviv, people are packing their bags. It's all a little mind-boggling. This is their country and if they are trying to leave, that kind of freaks you out."
12dBonnie D. Ford