Basketball returns to Israel's capital: Check out local Hapoel Jerusalem

The Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team has sparked excitement in the streets of Israel's capital with events made for locals to follow their exploits and meet the team.

 UP AGAINST Maccabi Tel Aviv. (photo credit: DANNY MARON)
UP AGAINST Maccabi Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: DANNY MARON)

September brings many new beginnings. Whether it is the start of the new school year, the arrival of Rosh Hashanah and the High Holy Days or the onset of fall, there are many new beginnings in the month of September, which includes the opening of the new Hapoel Jerusalem basketball season.

Capital city hoops fans have been starved for their Reds ever since the end of last season, which came to a halt in the semifinals when they fell to eventual Israeli league champions Hapoel Holon.

Since then, the club has made some interesting and very much out-of-the-box moves in order to strengthen the team both on and off the court as the local fans ready themselves for a fun ride, which begins with some exciting events that are great for the entire family to enjoy.

There will be exhibition games, events that will take place within the community, meet-and-greet sessions with the players, and much more for Jerusalemites to take advantage of right through the Jewish New Year.

So without further ado, buckle up tight, grab that ball and pull on your Hapoel jersey as we break down the excitement that will fill the streets of Jerusalem as the young and the young at heart can begin following the exploits of a team that was reconstructed from top to bottom.

To get the inside scoop, the Magazine sat down with Hapoel Jerusalem’s director of communications Roi Cohen to find out what programs and activities surrounding the club are waiting for fans both new and old alike.

 NEW COACH Aleksandar Dzikic. (credit: Courtesy ABA League j.t.d./Dragana Stjepanovic) NEW COACH Aleksandar Dzikic. (credit: Courtesy ABA League j.t.d./Dragana Stjepanovic)

What's new on the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team?

The coaching staff has been overhauled, as veteran Serbian tactician Aleksandar Dzikic takes over the reins on the sidelines. The new bench boss is one of the most colorful characters in the game and in fact in any sport, and just his presence and demeanor itself are worth the price of admission. He has vast experience, which includes having been an assistant coach in the NBA with the Minnesota Timberwolves, as well as having plied his trade in Lithuania, Slovenia, Spain and Montenegro, to name a few stops, and the 51-year-old is primed to be a star on a team that is just that – a team.

The Reds will have a mix of veteran Israelis, including Oz Blayzer, who arrives from Maccabi Tel Aviv, and Itay Segev, to go along with up-and-coming Sabra young guns guard Noam Dovrat and Gilad Levy, who led the under-20 team this summer to an impressive fourth place finish in the U20 European Championship. In addition, the squad will feature a number of Americans such as Levi Randolph, Speedy Smith, Khadeen Carrington and Zach Hankins, as well as a pair of Europeans – Siim-Sander Vene and Mareks Mejeris.

Meet the Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team, see exhibition games

If you want to meet all the players and get up close and personal with them, then make sure to get to the First Station on Friday, September 16, at 12:45 p.m., when the club will officially present the squad to the public in a festive afternoon of fun in the sun. The players will then be available for selfies and to sign autographs with the fans, and there will be plenty of booths with face painting, games, contests, Jerusalem basketball merchandise for sale, as well as season tickets, and much, much more in what will surely be a terrific time for the entire family.

While the team will be playing a number of exhibition games, including a preseason tournament in Eilat between September 12 and 14 with a number of teams, such as Hapoel Tel Aviv, Hapoel Beersheba and the host Hapoel Eilat, Hapoel Jerusalem will hold a match in the capital as well.

On Sunday, September 18, Hapoel Galil Elyon will visit the Malha Arena for a preseason clash to get everyone into gear as the Winner Cup tournament, Basketball Champions League and the regular Israeli season approach.

THE GAME, which is slated for 6 p.m., will be free for season ticket holders by making a reservation. If there are any remaining seats, they will go on sale to the general public for a nominal price. So if you want to be the first to see the new team in action, live and in person, make sure to lock up your season tickets as soon as possible.

 FANS WAVE the red, white and black. (credit: JOSHUA HALICKMAN) FANS WAVE the red, white and black. (credit: JOSHUA HALICKMAN)

If you want to purchase season tickets, the club has terrific packages for families and individuals alike at the Jerusalem Arena for at least 20 home games across all competitions, with prices starting at NIS 850 for adults and NIS 750 for children, while an adult and child combined season ticket can be yours for NIS 1,400. If you are looking for more than two seats, then give the club a call at *9675 for an even better deal.

If you used to go to Madison Square Garden to see the New York Knicks, or the Bulls in Chicago or the Miami Heat in Florida, then you must give Hapoel Jerusalem a chance and join the Red revolution by becoming part of the family because that is what the club is – a family.

In fact, Jerusalem is taking a page out of some of the biggest European soccer teams by offering a special flexible season ticket that will allow fans to buy games of their choice at half price by purchasing this plan. Regular season game tickets start at NIS 40 for children and NIS 70 for adults, and can be purchased the week of the game on the club’s website, hapoel.co.il.

Another supercool project that the team is doing is allowing season ticket holders the opportunity to select the club’s uniform for the season. During the summer months, three options were offered to the fans to choose from, including one supercool jersey with a silhouette of some of Jerusalem’s famous sites.

Throughout the season, the Jerusalem games will have plenty of activities around the facility for children and adults, as the arena will be spruced up with plenty of new Hapoel branding, while the most dedicated of fans will sing, dance and cheer at the top of their lungs for the team.

If you want to celebrate a birthday, bar/bat mitzvah or any other type of special occasion, the club can design an event for you as you take in a game at the arena while your name and photo are emblazoned on the big screen.

Tamir Goodman, the Jewish Jordan will also be at games during the upcoming campaign, as he takes many groups of students studying in Israel in gap year programs, yeshivot and midrashot to the games, so make sure you snap a photo with him and come by to say hi. He’d be happy to see you.

In fact, Goodman will be hosting a special Sukkot event with Hapoel Jerusalem for the thousands of visitors from abroad and also long-term visitors, so be on the lookout for that program.

Every game will include an emotional moment between the third and fourth quarters for children suffering from illnesses or disabilities, where they will meet and greet some of the city’s finest at center court as fans cheer, sending chills through everyone in attendance as the players shower the children with Hapoel gifts.

But the community work for the club doesn’t end there. Lone soldiers are honored at games and often will be seated in the luxury boxes. The team also visits Shaare Zedek and Hadassah medical centers on Hanukkah and Purim, respectively. There will also be many more opportunities to be a part of the action.

In a nice twist this season, fans buying refreshments at the game from Mifgash Hashech will see 10% of all sales earmarked for community activities, so make sure to quench your thirst and satiate your palate while helping those in need.

This is just a sampling of what the local basketball team is offering Jerusalem residents. Don’t miss out on becoming part of the Red family. ■