EXCITED FOOTBALL fans gather in Jerusalem’s First Station to take in Sunday’s late-night Super Bowl showdown between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks..
(photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)
With the schism in the US-Israel relationship dominating the headlines due to the upcoming speech in Congress by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the non-partisan oasis of the Super Bowl couldn’t have been more timely or more welcome.
Everything in Israel is political, but in this case, even a Super Bowl viewing party hosted by Yesh Atid in a Tel Aviv nightclub, was less an excuse to pick up a stray vote or two from the militant New England Patriot fan base in Bat Yam, than it was an excuse for fans of American football – both American-born and native Israeli – to gather for some beer and wing-fueled camaraderie.
Besides the added attraction of rubbing shoulders with Yesh Atid leader and football fan Yair Lapid and MKs Dov Lipman and Ofer Shelah, the event provided a brief respite from the nonstop tumultuous world outside.
But some people are not ready to accept the notion that Israelis deserve a little fun too – even if it is American fun. Responding to my tweets from the party overnight Sunday, one person responded: “Why are Israelis staying up all night drinking, watching a game which is not even played in Israel?” Good question, especially when at around 3:15 a.m. during halftime I felt myself starting to nod out on the one of the soft, comfy couches at the trendy Dream Exhibition nightclub.
Another tweeted response was more to the point in its opposition to attempts by people in Israel to emulate American behavior: “Tell the son of Tommy [Lapid] that he shouldn’t waste his time with some dumb ball game. It’s holy war time.”
I guess, to some, the idea of gathering to drink beer, eat kosher chicken wings and watch padded mammoths pound each other on huge LED screens is a waste of time – especially with the enemies at our borders and a fateful Knesset election around the corner.
But, maybe that’s the point – without that diversion and the release that it provides, we would be left without any pressure escape valve in a country where everyone is about to burst. Everyone has his own outlet, whether it be folk dancing, origami or, for those for whom Beitar Jerusalem just doesn’t cut it, the Super Bowl.
And what’s more, it was one of those increasingly more rare occasions in Israeli society that transcended political affiliation and ideology.
There were some Yesh Atid volunteers dotting the crowd, but being a supporter was no prerequisite – and even rarer for an Israeli event, there were no speeches! With politics on the back burner for four quarters at least, there was a lightness of spirit that permeated the room as the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks battled in one of the best Super Bowls ever.
People temporarily forgot about their 24/7 factionalism in the “outside” world.
A US-born yeshiva student sporting a black kippa repeatedly exchanged high-fives, bumps and even hugs with a wire-rimmed glasses-wearing Meretz-supporting resident of Tel Aviv.
Their connection? Both were Patriot fans. Put them in room the next morning and they would be bumping into each other for real in no time as the discussion would surely turn to settlements or draft-dodging. But take them out of the Israeli arena and put them in a football stadium, their differences melted away.
Of course, we can’t take them permanently out of the Israeli arena. So, to answer the first tweet, maybe we need to stay up all night watching a game not even played in Israel because it’s one of the few ways that we can find common ground for three hours.
Another reason is that maybe it’s healthy to participate in something that has nothing to do with us. We Israelis tend to think the world revolves around what’s happening within our tiny borders – and of course, we’re right. But sometimes taking a step back and sharing a worldwide phenomenon in which we play no part at all provides us with a reality check.
Then again, it might be delusional to believe for a short time that we’re in just another corner bar somewhere downing some wings and beer and watching a football game.
So those tweeters who bristle at the idea that there are Israelis – even political leaders – who manage to spend a night without the awesome responsibility of the future of the Jewish people on their shoulders have no need to worry. The next morning, we were back to fighting among ourselves and facing a week of Islamic immolation, horrific traffic accidents and immature party politics.
Given that reality, wasting some time is not such a bad alternative.