The Last Word: The weekend's games should never have been called off

Sport is a welcome diversion from the almost constant news of Hamas rockets and IDF action.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. While the international media's use of images from Gaza has been criticized as distorting the story of Israel's battle with Hamas, a very different broadcast on Israeli television on Thursday evening immediately proved an undoubtedly important point. Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena was packed to capacity for Maccabi's Euroleague clash with Olympiacos, with hundreds of fans waving Israeli flags and enjoying the simple pleasure of a sporting contest. Rather than abandoning sports while war rages in the South, Israelis quite clearly embraced it as a welcome diversion from the almost constant news of Hamas rockets and IDF military action. And at the same time the supporters made sure not to forget those caught up in the conflict. Banners raised before the game (pictured) proclaimed "Residents of the South and IDF soldiers, the people of Israel are with you." As Maccabi coach Pini Gershon noted at Thursday's pre-game press conference, thousands of people would be watching the game while sitting in their bomb shelters and safe rooms. An exciting, engaging sports event is two hours of perfect entertainment for all those who have unfortunately been preoccupied with matters of life and death. How Israel Football Association chairman Avi Luzon could have thought otherwise is baffling. Luzon's announcement on Monday that the entire weekend's schedule of league games would be postponed because "it would be wrong to play the matches while residents of the South are under rocket fire and are in bomb shelters," was misguided and sent the wrong message to the rest of the world. The IFA chief seemed to think all Israelis should spend every waking hour glued to the television in a state of panic. According to his thinking all places of leisure and entertainment should be closed while the conflict continues. While we are all concerned about the situation in Gaza, and many Israelis have the deepest personal concern for soldiers who are fighting, we are a nation of survivors and this is the very time to show our courage. Since the start of the fighting nearly two weeks ago life has gone on and should be seen to go on as much as possible. The Israel Basketball Association got it right when it announced that the weekend's league games would be played as planned. Sports can raise the moral of the nation, while canceling games only adds to the sense of tension. This was seen on Tuesday when Ashdod SC came together as a team to rout the much-fancied Maccabi Netanya 4-1 in the Toto Cup quarterfinals, even though Yossi Mizrahi's side had been unable to train in its home city for a week. Ashdod SC owner spoke out against Luzon's decision after the game. "If we can play, we should play," he stated emphatically. What a message that sends to the residents of Ashdod and the entire country - the complete opposite of Luzon's.