IBL - Fan's view: 'Baseball is too American for us Israelis'

By BRIAN FREEMAN
June 24, 2007 01:37
3 minute read.

 
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In 1976, my hometown Cincinnati Reds captured their second consecutive baseball world championship. Whenever I traveled to another city I made sure to wear the Big Red Machine back-to-back title T-shirt to boast of my civic pride in the achievement. As an 11-year-old there seemed to be nothing more important, since love of and appreciation of baseball was then and is now one of the most deeply engrained aspects of American culture, with many waxing poetic about its deeper meaning in the fabric of life in the US. But now, 30 years later and 18 years after I moved here, you won't see me running to support the new Israel Baseball League. I did not make aliya to promote American culture in Israel or to live in an American ghetto, but to become part of the Israeli landscape. In the ensuing decades living here I have found new interests, including in other sports, that connect me to this place, such as rooting for our national soccer team, cheering on Maccabi Tel Aviv in the European basketball championships or in general backing one of "our guys" as he/she performs on the world stage. Baseball is no longer on the list. My three children, about the same age now as I was back in 1976, love swimming, basketball, gymnastics, ballet and hiking the Land of Israel. They play some soccer and collect cards of the professional players here, because it is such a dominant presence in this country. They don't know the rules of baseball or any of the professional players in the Major Leagues. Why should they? Not one of their classmates (none of whom are children of Americans as far as I know) care about the game, and it is not part of their identity. And why should I create a dual identity for them? The idea of moving here was to have an Israeli identity and not continue as if I was still living in the Old Country. That's why if my children ask me about interesting sports history I would talk about Maccabi beating CSKA Moscow in 1977 and what that meant to the country at the time or Israel's advancement to the 1970 World Cup, and not Pete Rose's 44-game hitting streak in 1978 or the US hockey team beating the Soviets at the 1980 Olympics. And that's why I don't celebrate Thanksgiving or the Fourth of July or any of the other customs left behind. Frankly, I don't understand those US immigrants who do it, as if our Israeli/Jewish culture is lacking somehow. I heard a report that is a perfect illustration of this absurdity. Apparently, visiting American groups are being encouraged to go to these baseball games while traveling here. These groups supposedly visit to better understand Israeli culture and history and to see what is special in this country. But precious time from an always too short itinerary is going to be used up attending a game that in no way reflects real life here, again as if Israel doesn't have enough authentic attractions or entertainment to fill up their schedule. I can already hear some of you who disagree with me, saying why can't we both love what's here in Israel and keep whatever we enjoyed from the US? To that, I say, everyone is obviously free to do whatever they want and I wish you enjoyment if that makes you happy. However, all of us have limited energy and time, and mine will not be dedicated to supporting this league. I would be delighted, however, if some of the Jewish baseball players coming from abroad to play here see the wonder of our reborn Jewish homeland and decide to live in Israel permanently, casting their fate in the only place where a Jewish future matters. Then I could start considering it a truly blue-and-white endeavour.

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