basketball, Israel, Yapoel Jerusalem, Yapoel Yerushalayim, Zionism

When Zionism Looks Like a Basketball Game

The modern State of Israel is a complete miracle. With all of its complexities, problems and issues, it is a miracle that we’ve come home after 2000 years and that we are a thriving and free democratic society. 

When most people think about Israel, an image of the Kotel comes to mind; of the Old City Walls; perhaps of Tzfat and its mystical blue doors. This week, however, I was introduced to an entirely different image that represents the State.

Here it is:

And here it is:

Um, you might be thinking. What the heck do pictures of basketball games have to do with the miracle of Israel? 

A lot.

Recently, I attended my first Hapoel Jerusalem basketball game, and the energy in the stadium was absolutely mind blowing. Of course, fans around the world go crazy at soccer games. And there is energy and fun to be had at all sporting events. But the energy here and the love of the team and the players felt unparalleled to me.

I happen to cry just about every time that I hear our national anthem, Hatikva. Hearing it at a basketball game, with everyone holding up their Hapoel scarves, was incredible. 

Before the game, I asked Josh if it would look silly for me to wear the scarf. He said, “You have no idea where you’re going.” Everyone had on something Hapoel and half the crowd used their scarves throughout the game to show their love of the team and their enthusiasm.

They have a section at the game for the particularly energetic fans, the Malcha Brigade, and they jumped and sang the entire game.

I was kept laughing throughout the entire game by my neighbors at the game. The guy behind me takes his basketball very seriously and spent the entire game telling people to sit down or move. He told the security guard in front of us to please move over. He yelled at the mascot, “Yalla! Lion! Move out of the way!” And he even yelled at the opposing team’s players as they were warming up in front of us. Now, they were from Slovenia and didn’t know a word of Hebrew; but never mind, as the guy was yelling, “Yalla! Players! Warm up somewhere else.”

Yalla! Lion, sit down!

Yalla! Player in green. Can you warm up somewhere else?

The game was a blast from beginning to end. As the brigade section broke into a modern version of Yerushalayim Shel Zahav (Jerusalem of Gold), waving their scarves over their heads, I couldn’t help but think about Herzl, Ben Gurion and Ben Yehuda. How in awe would they have been to see the ancient language of Hebrew being used in its modern form at a basketball game and to see thousands of people coming together for something so mundane and profound?

I find that living here very often turns the mundane into the profound. This is exactly the point of our country; that we can live in a Jewish homeland and enjoy the regular, everyday events and activities that people enjoy all around the world. But do it here, at Home.

We have come so far in Israel in such a short amount of time; we have achieved so much. And while most people don’t enjoy a Zionist take-away from a basketball game, I was left bursting with pride over what we manage to accomplish on a daily basis here. And in awe of what Zionism can look like. 

Sometimes, it looks like a basketball game on a regular Wednesday night.

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