Getting back into the sports groove in Israel

Individual sports such as windsurfing, sailing, tennis will get back to training right after next Wednesday’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, to the delight of the athletes.

ASIDE FROM the obvious contact issues inherently involved with the sport, Israeli basketball teams have to find a way to get many of their players back into the country before they can seriously think about a competitive return to the court (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
ASIDE FROM the obvious contact issues inherently involved with the sport, Israeli basketball teams have to find a way to get many of their players back into the country before they can seriously think about a competitive return to the court
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)
While there may not have been a lot of action this week on Israel’s field of play, there has certainly been plenty off of it in both individual and team sports.
As the coronavirus has pretty much halted all disciplines across the board, there has been a ray of light this past week – baby steps in essence – as the Israeli world of sports begins to reopen, slowly but surely.
Individual sports such as windsurfing, sailing, tennis will get back to training right after next Wednesday’s Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day, to the delight of the athletes. However, other sports such as judo and other sports which require physical contact between two athletes will still have to wait for their return.
On the soccer field, Israeli teams began to train again while they adhere to the Ministry of Health guidelines. A number of teams opened up their training centers this week, including Beitar Jerusalem and Maccabi Tel Aviv, as the players worked in groups of 10 without contact but with a ball. The players won’t yet be able to use the locker-rooms and exercise rooms on site and will have to arrive ready to go in their training uniforms.
Due to the fact that most of the players are Israeli and that the foreigners remained in the country, there is high hopes that the league will potentially restart at some point in the near future.
On the basketball court, the Israel Basketball Association produced a plan that would bring back its amateur leagues, which are comprised of over 30,000 participants around the country. The plan is being reviewed by the appropriate authorities and the Ministry of Health and should get a green light in the upcoming days. The plan will be similar to that of soccer’s and will allow training to begin for various leagues and age groups.
The exception will be Israel’s Winner League, the top division in Israeli basketball with teams such as Maccabi Tel Aviv and Hapoel Jerusalem. Many of the players are indeed imports and returned to their respective home countries. The Israeli government is not allowing any non-citizens to enter the country, which is undoubtedly a stumbling block in ramping up the on-court action.
While the domestic hoops league in Israel is still suspended, the ACB, Spain’s Premier League has come out with a plan that will see the 12 top teams in its 18 team league compete in a tournament in a closed location to crown a champion should the health situation allow.
The Euroleague, meanwhile, has still to come up with a definitive plan of action, but has stated that a decision will have to be made between mid-May and the beginning of June.
Related, in the court of law, 14 Israeli basketball players – all of which are olim (immigrants) from a number of countries – are challenging a rule that was agreed upon by the league administration and the players association that would levy a fine on a team that signs a naturalized citizen who has had citizenship for less than four years. Under the current rules, a fine of 200,000 NIS is to be applied for the first naturalized citizen while a fine of 300,000 NIS will be levied on the second.
The desire for this regulation to be implemented was to discourage teams from signing naturalized players due to favorable tax rates while shunning home-grown talent.
Spencer Weisz, Hapoel Beersheba’s captain and one of the 14 players that filed the lawsuit – himself being a naturalized citizen – spoke exclusively to The Jerusalem Post about the situation.
“It’s an unfortunate situation that is occurring. Having grown up in a Jewish household, Judaism has always been deeply rooted into who I am – from celebrating Jewish Holidays, attending Hebrew school and having a bar mitzvah. I had the privilege of going to Israel for the first time when I was 18 to play in the Maccabiah Games,” said Weisz.
“Since then, I have spent much of my young adult life in the country including spending a summer playing for the Israel’s Under-20 National Team. Once I finished my degree at Princeton University, I opted to turn down opportunities in America in order to make aliyah. It is my understanding that the Law of Return is meant to unite Jews of different backgrounds in the Jewish homeland, not use the law as a way to separate Jews based on birthplace.”
Finally, if you want to get your fill of sports and learn how they impacted the development of the State of Israel you can join the author for an interactive three-part free series beginning this Sunday, April 26, at 8:30 p.m. Israel Time/1:30pm EDT via Zoom. The series is perfect for all ages and with the part two being held on Wednesday April 29 and concluding on Sunday, May 3, all at the same time of day as part one.
The Sports Rabbi will be taking you on an adventure that begins with Theodor Herzl and the first Jewish sports club all the way to Tal Brody, European glory, hockey royalty at the Western Wall, baseball, basketball and much more! Just sign up via the following link to have a great time https://bit.ly/2W2dRcn.
Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel sports adventures for tourists and residents (www.sportsrabbi.com). Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or feel free to contact the Sports Rabbi at sportsrabbi9@gmail.com.


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