Gil’s D’var Israel
Today I chose to talk about one of my interests from growing up in Israel, despite it’s weak connection to Israel. That interest is the game of Football, and why did I choose to talk about it today? Because I believe the story of Football in Israel, surprisingly, is pretty similar to the story of Israel itself.
So when does that story begin? Well the story of Israel might have started thousands of years ago, but the story of Israeli American Football started in 1988.
Where did it start? In the holy land. About 20-something men from Haifa and Tel Aviv found out they all have this weird thing in common – their affinity to a sport that was not aired on Israeli TV, was not played in Israel, with rules unknown to just about any Israeli, and back then the internet was not what it is today, so there was no real way of knowing about it. Kind of like the Jews in the Diaspora that found out that other than being Jews, they share their affinity to the land of Israel.
So these men started playing together 8-men tackle football on public fields in Haifa and Tel Aviv. Much like the first Jews that settled in small groups in Israel.
It wasn’t until 2004 that they thought about forming a league, which back then consisted of only 3 teams (two in Tel Aviv and one in Haifa). And it wasn’t until 2006 that they received a wealthy donation from the Jewish billionaire and owner of the New England Patriots, Robert Kraft, to build an official field and buy official football equipment. It wasn’t until 2008 that the league received official recognition from the State of Israel, Only 60 years after Israel received its own recognition from the world and the people of Israel.
However, this is not the reason for the similarity between Israeli football and the State of Israel.
My high school football team (the Haifa Rams) consisted of Jewish, Muslim and Christian players, living in Haifa, the Druze villages Daliyat al-Karmel and Isfiya, the US, many small towns around Haifa, and one refugee from South Sudan (who, by the way, was by far our best player). All coached by a man from Tennessee, and a man from California, on a soccer field in the private Hebrew Reali high school in Haifa. And who pays for all of this? Robert Kraft and another good Jew who grew up in LA (hence the name of the team – Rams).
So what is my point?
Look at the diversity we had in a group with around 30-40 people that are involved in our team. And that doesn’t end here!
That diversity is spreading all around the Israeli football community. Do you know how many people are a part of this community? There are about 2000 players, coaches and referees that are involved in football in Israel in one way or another (that is if you also count flag football as real football). The entire Israeli football community (which includes the people I just mentioned, fans, managers, medics and even donors) is probably smaller than 3000 people.
Think about that number for a second. 3000 people. That is smaller than the Holy Blossom community. You can probably fit the entire Israeli football community in 2 services in the main sanctuary!
And in that community, the number of different kinds of people wishing to be involved in it, is unreal.
That is the story of Israel.
Look at how many people are involved and engaged in our tiny little country in one way or another. They might not always be involved as we might wish them to be involved, but they are involved. It is a blessing and a curse, but for some reason Israel has that quality, and it creates the most interesting group of people, connected from all around the world.
And that is something we should all embrace.
[green_message] For the full archive of our Shinshinim D’var Israel postings, please click here.[/green_message]