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The dream of sports radio is finally coming to Israel
By JEREMY LAST
01/10/2010
Less than two years after making aliyah, Andy Gershman and Ari Louis are taking their passion to the airwaves.
 
When Andy Gershman and Ari Louis made aliya from the US in 2009, the last thing they planned on doing was launching their own radio show – let alone having their own radio station.

The pair met in Jerusalem’s Ulpan Morasha in September 2009 and instantly built up a rapport through their love of sports.

Less than a year and a half down the line, however, they have practically become radio veterans, successfully running and marketing the only sports show on Rusty Mike Radio.

On Monday, just a few months after they quit Rusty Mike, Gershman and Louis’s dream project will come to fruition with the first ever broadcast of Israel Sports Radio.

The brand new station will broadcast live five days a week between 4 p.m. and midnight exclusively on the Internet from its studios in Jerusalem’s Talpiot neighborhood.

Gershman and Louis have a full slate of programs in English lined up, plus one Hebrew show on Wednesday afternoons.

Israelsportsradio.com is a testament to the tenacity and spirit of these two olim, and their third partner in the project, Canadian-Israeli accountant Josh Halickman.

Gershman, a 41-year-old Boston Red Sox fan, had always been into sports while growing up in Richmond, Virginia, but had never worked in sports media itself.

When he moved to Israel with his wife and two sons last August after quitting his job – training prison inmates – he didn’t have any real career plans.

“I really wasn’t sure what I was going to do,” Gershman said. “I was going to finish ulpan and see what I could do, truthfully.”

But after meeting Rusty Mike owner Adam Mallerman at a Nefesh B’Nefesh event he came up with the idea for a sports show.

Louis, 26, who moved here from Arizona, was Gershman’s new friend from ulpan and had some broadcast experience. So the two teamed up and took the internet radio waves by storm.

Now they hope to go much further with Israelsportsradio.com after investing their own money in the project.

“We hope to absolutely change the face of Israeli Sports Media in the future,” Gershman said confidently.

“Realistically, we would like to see more Hebrew programming during the day and like to see Israel Sports Radio become a go-to source for all news, scores and talk.”

It is this confidence and excitement which runs right through the newly created Israel Sports Radio family, which is mostly made up of enthusiastic ex-pat sports fans eager to share their passion with the Jewish world and English-speaking Israelis.

As well as Louis and Gershman’s nightly sports chat show, the schedule will include Halickman’s “Sports Rabbi” slot, the intriguing David Pick and the Wolf show and The Last Word Show presented by Associated Press Israel sports reporter Jeremy Last.

“We are very excited. We have met and done test broadcasts with most of the on-air personalities and feel they all have a lot of energy and expertise that is going to be heard by our listeners,” Gershman said.

The aim of the station is simple, and is summed up by its slogan: “Building love of Israel one sports fan at a time.”

The programming will focus on both Israeli and international sports, but the discussion of sports outside of Israel will often have a Jewish or Israeli flavor.

In the months leading up to Monday’s launch, Louis, Gershman and Halickman began interviewing numerous personalities, with the recordings posted to the Israelsportsradio.com website.

When NBA legend Amare Stoudemire came to Israel this summer Gershman was quick to land an interview with him. And during the Israel national team’s EuroBasket qualification campaign, Halickman interviewed many of the team’s stars including Omri Casspi and Yotam Halperin.

For Gershman the project is about giving the audience what they really want.

“I am most excited about bringing something new to Israel that I feel is much needed. I also am excited to be another bridge between the US and Israel by bringing American sports talk to the US with an Israeli-Jewish Flavor,” he said.

“A lot of people in the world have never been to Israel and don’t know much about the culture. This station is going to educate the world about Israel.”

Although he has been living in Israel for less than two years, Louis has already become a big fan of Israeli sports, with the passion found among the fans really impressing him.

“I would compare the crowd in Israel to those of a college football game in the south, but a lot more intense here.

“They’re definitely not passive,” he said of his experience watching a Betar Jerusalem game at Teddy Stadium where the supporters unfurled a banner protesting chairman Itzik Kornfein’s decision to sell key players to rivals.

“They follow management’s moves and they have public protest during games. They also have tremendous loyalty to the players on their team or even the ones who have left,” he added in reference to the Betar fans’ support for former player Barak Itzhaki when he returned to Teddy with Maccabi Tel Aviv in August.

“That does happen in the States but only in rare cases like with [former LA Dodgers catcher] Mike Piazza.

Most of the time when the players leave, even if they are forced to leave they are booed when they comeback.”

One of the biggest successes of Louis and Gersman’s show on Rusty Mike was their coverage of the Israel Football League, Israel’s answer to the NFL.

This will be taken to the next level on Israel Sports Radio, with weekly live broadcasts of games from Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem on Thursday nights.

Gershman has been a big fan of the IFL since arriving in the country.

“I think American sports have a place here because of the amount of Anglos. When I say here, I mean in certain areas that are heavy Anglo populated.

“The IFL has done a great job crossing over and will continue to grow as the level of the league grows.

Where else can you see Gabi Ashkenazi and Natan Sharansky watching a sporting event? They were both at an IFL game!” Gershman added that listeners shouldn’t expect anything less than quality coverage of Israeli sports, with Jerusalem Post Sports Editor Uriel Sturm to join Last as a frequent co-host on The Last Word every Monday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

With just days to go until the launch, Gersman and Louis said they aren’t nervous about the station’s prospects and are looking forward to finally getting it off the ground.

On Saturday a launch party will be held at Jerusalem’s HaGov Sports Bar and at 4 p.m. Israel time on Monday the first show will be broadcast.


“Sports Talk is a big part of the American Culture and the more I talked to Anglos throughout Israel I kept hearing how much they miss following and talking about their teams,” Gershman said.

“Sports is entertainment and it brings people together no matter what race religion gender or socio economic status. We want to bring that Anglo bridge. South African, American, Brits and Aussies all will feel comfortable through our programming. And of course, Israelis will enjoy our one show in Hebrew!”
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