Jerusalem basketball fans gather to watch big game. .
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
With a final score of 88:68, Hapoel Jerusalem defeated Hapoel Eilat on Thursday night to win its first basketball championship.
“I came to watch history,” said 16-year-old Yarden Hadad, moments before the tipoff of Hapoel Jerusalem’s championship game was broadcast on a giant screen in Jerusalem’s Safra Square.
“This is a big deal!” On the cusp of attaining an historic championship, Hadad joined dozens of diehard Hapoel Jerusalem fans proudly donning their team’s red colors to watch a game many did not believe would ever take place.
Osnat Silko, 27, who came to the screening with her roommate, said her main incentive was to be with other like-minded fans.
“I grew up a fan of Hapoel Jerusalem and came especially to see the fans, because they’re not like fans from other basketball teams, because win or lose, they always come out to support Hapoel,” she said. “They’re special.”
Indeed, Sari Segev, 16, said she forced her little sister Roni, 14, to join her outside of city hall to cheer on her beloved team.
“I’ve loved this team since I was in the third grade,” said Sari, who kept warm wearing a Hapoel sweatshirt and scarf.
“I’m excited every time they play, and the last game was very exciting for me, and it’s a very big thing to think we are going to win tonight.”
“I’m sure we’re going to win,” added Sari before shouting “Yalla [Let’s go] Hapoel!” Fan Rami Cohen, 44, brought his two sons, Avinoam, eight, and Amitai, 10.
“It’s the first time that a Jerusalem basketball team will probably take the championship, so I wanted my sons to see it,” said Cohen.
“It makes me proud because I think sport is a good way to gather people from many countries to come together – and is good for children because it teaches them to fight for what they want to do in their lives, and to do it with honor.”
Meanwhile, Jon Polin, who made aliya with his family from Chicago seven years ago, came to watch the big game with his two daughters and extended family visiting from Boston, while his 14-year-old son watched live at Pais Arena.
“You know what, as a guy who lives in Jerusalem, it’s great to be part of the excitement,” he said.
“My son has season tickets and is in the fan brigade, which jumps up and down the whole game. His entire closet at home is covered in red stickers for Hapoel and he’s been at the stadium since 5 p.m.”
Polin’s 13-year-old nephew, Eytan Pomper, who donned a Celtics cap, said he was happy to join such devoted basketball fans from another country.
“This is the first game I’ve ever seen in Israel and I’m excited to watch it and see the different style of play from the NBA,” he said.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever watched a game like this on a big screen with people ready to celebrate the championship.”
Polin’s daughter Leebie said she is celebrating her bat mitzva in the capital’s Talpiot neighborhood this weekend.
Asked what is more exciting, the game or her big day, Leebie briefly demurred.
“My bat mitzva,” she said with a sly grin.