Sports in Israel

Sports in Israel

Sport in Israel is popular with a wide range of sports played competitively and for leisure. Football (soccer) and basketball are considered the most popular sports in the country, whilst the nation has reached many achievements in other sports, such as handball and track and field athletics, in addition to a wide variety of other athletic activities. The traditional emphasis toward sports in Israel been on participation rather than the production of elite athletes. Part of the reason for this is the necessary compulsory military service that almost all Israelis perform after turning 18 years old. Another reason may be in the Jewish ethos and psyche that has traditionally considered athletic pursuits as a form of competition. This can be seen in the story of the Maccabees (and Hanukkah) and their rejection of the ancient Greek ideals. Nonetheless, many Israelis follow football and basketball sporting teams as ardently as many Europeans do. In the Olympic Games, Israel has won 7 medals in judo, canoeing, and windsurfing.

From a participatory perspective, many Israelis enjoy non-competitive activities such as swimming, going on tiyulim (hiking trips) and playing matkot on the beach. A game that is particularly popular at junior level is an Israeli form of dodgeball known as Ga-ga. [ [ Sports in Israel] ]

Israeli sportsmen and teams usually compete in European competitions, although Israel geographically belongs to Asia. The reason is the Arab–Israeli conflict. [ [ Sports: Israel and Europe] ] In many worldwide competitions, such as the Olympics, Arabs and Asians competitors avoid competing against Israelis. Some countries even force its sportsmen not to compete against Israelis or in Israel. Mushir Salem Jawher, a Kenyan born marathoner, lost his Bahraini citizenship after competing in the Kinneret Marathon in Israel [cite news|title=Bahrain athlete loses citizenship|url=|date=2007-01-07] .

Popular sports in Israel

Football (Soccer)

The main sport in Israel is football (soccer), which is played amongst Israel's teams, including both Jewish and Arab athletes. Football was played as far back as the British Mandate. Israeli football is governed by the Israel Football Association. The most popular and crowd attracting matches are played in Israeli's Premier League - Ligat ha'Al

Football in Israel is played by men and women, though the women's football league is much less popular among Israeli football fans.

History of Israeli Football

As Israel developed politically, soccer teams have affiliated themselves with political parties, as exemplified by Hapoel, Maccabi, Beitar and others. These are still frequented by their respective political party leadership. For instance, it is likely that someone would see party leaders from the Likud party at Beitar Jerusalem soccer games. That said, the political aspect has become less prominent in recent years.

American Football in Israel is based at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem. Currently there are four leagues playing American Flag Football. The largest league in 2007 is men's contact and it includes 57 teams which compete for the annual Holyland Bowl championship. The women's league is the WAFI which has 13 teams. The Yosef Goodman High School League has 12 teams, and the Tuesday Night co-ed league has 5 teams. Some 1000 players are involved in weekly football activities.


Basketball is considered the second most popular sport in Israel, after soccer. The Israeli basketball team Maccabi Tel Aviv dominates the domestic league and is among the top teams in Europe. Maccabi Tel Aviv has won the European championship 5 times, in 1977, 1981, 2001, 2004 and 2005.

Israel National Basketball Team

Israel national basketball team has participated 23 times in the European Championship. Their best achievements were a silver medal in Eurobasket 1979, and 5th place in 1953 and 1977. The national team also played in two World Championships And once in the Summer Olympic Games.

Also, Israel basketball is know by her very good Israel national U20 basketball team, winning 2 times silver medal, in 2000, and 2004, and finishing 4th 2 times (1994,2005), 5th (1992), and 6th (2007).Israel U-20 also took place in the U-21 World Championship, Finishing two times at 7th place (2001,2005), and 6th place (1993).


Tennis is increasingly popular in Israel with professional players placing higher and higher in the professional ranks. Highly ranked players include Amos Mansdorf, Anna Smashnova, Shahar Pe'er (ranked #15 by the WTA on January 29, 2007) and the doubles team of Andy Ram and Jonathan Erlich (world #7 team in 2006 and 2008 Australian Open champions) - all of whom have trained at the "Israel Tennis Centers".As of 2008, both the men's and the women's teams have qualified for the top groups in the world - the men are in the Davis Cup world group, and the women are in the Fed Cup world group I.

Ice Hockey

Ice hockey started in Israel in 1986 when the first rink opened in Qiryat Motzkin. Israel has a following of over 1,000 Ice hockey players. Recently, Israel was relegated to the 2007 Ice Hockey Division II World Championships. Currently, the Israel ice hockey season is underway, with six teams participating this year: Metula, Haifa, Ma'alot, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, and Bat Yam. Roller hockey is also big in Israel, with over 10 rinks in the country.


Handball is also a popular sport in Israel. Israel's national handball team participated in the 2002 European Men's Handball Championship in Sweden. Local power Hapoel Rishon Lezion qualified for the quarterfinals of the EHF Champions League in 2000.


There are around a thousand baseball players in Israel and in the summer of 2007, the Israel Baseball League, which is directed by Larry Baras, opened its first season. It is the first ever professional baseball league in the Middle East. Currently there are 6 teams that play in 3 stadiums. The first and current champions are the Bet Shemesh Blue Sox managed by Ron Blomberg.


Track and field athletics in Israel are mainly focused around the Maccabiah Games and the international Olympic Games, where Israel has achieved notable successes during its short history.

Maccabiah Games

The "Maccabiah Games" is an international Jewish athletic event, similar to the Olympics, held every four years in Israel. The first games were held in 1932.

Olympic Games

Although Israelis have won several medals over the years, Israel is most commonly remembered for the incident at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany, where Arab terrorists stormed the Israeli team residence, took 11 hostages, and later murdered them all. Gal Fridman won Israel's first Olympic gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics.

ports media in Israel

Sports have been a major part of Israeli broadcasting since the early days of organized sports in the country. The media's influence on Israeli sports has increased considerably in recent years, which is most evident in football (soccer) and basketball, where team budgets rely largely on payments from television networks who bought the rights to broadcast sporting eventsFact|date=February 2007.

Television, radio, newspapers and news web sites are the major channels where Israeli sport is analyzed, broadcast and discussed. Generally, football (soccer) attracts the major attention of Israeli media, which is evident through all of the above channels.

Israeli Arabs in sports

Despite the country's political problems, a growing number of Arab sportsmen are joining Israeli sports teams and contributing to Israel's success in the international arena. They include Rifat (Jimmy) Turk, Najwan Grayeb, and Walid Badir. Abbas Suan, one of Israel's top soccer players, is an Israeli Arab. [ [ - Arab players key to Israel's success ] ]


External links

* [ Sports in Israel (Borodulincollection)]
* [ The Israel Football Association]
* [ Israel Basketball Association] he icon
* [ Sports Associations in Israel] - List containing links and phone numbers
* [ Sports in Israel] - Photos by Lev Borodulin
* [ IL-Sports] - Israeli sports website in English

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