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Formula One race cars tear through Jerusalem streets

by ben June 20 2013
SportsMunicipal newsThings to do


Jerusalem dwellers were treated to a taste of F1 auto racing when drivers and vehicles from the Ferrari and Marussia teams put on an invigorating motorsport showcase this past Thursday and Friday on a 2.8-kilometer route that traversed the Old Train Station fairgrounds, the Old City Walls and King David Street.

Team Ferrari's three-time Grand Prix champ Giancarlo Fisichella zoomed past rows of bleachers set up around the Mamilla neighborhood at 240 kilometers per hour, and the crowd, hailing from all walks of life, went wild. Some 160,000 people are said to have checked out the action in person over the course of these two days. In addition to Fisichella, Marussia driver Rodolfo Gonzalez and 2012 World Superbike victor Massimiliano "the Roman Emperor" Biaggi also participated. Massimiliano's freestyle motorcycle stunt routene provided major thrills.

"It’s great to have the chance to drive a Formula One car on the streets of a city that is as fascinating and full of history as Jerusalem,” said Fisichella at the Formula One Jerusalem Peace Road Show's press conference launch event.

Driving for sport is in its infancy in Israel, having only become legal as of 2011. An estimated 100 Israelis are licensed to drive in this context.

The Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), Formula One's governing body, has been aggressively expanding its reach to new territories in recent decades. While many locales are now enjoying new additions to the Grand Prix competitoon circuit, showcases like the one in Jerusalem are rare, as non-Grand Prix FIA events usually take the form of demonstration rallies in closed spaces.

Photo of a 2009 Ferarri Formula 1 automobile outside the Jaffa Gate courtesy of The Israel Project from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Streetballin' in Jerusalem

by michael June 30 2011
Municipal newsSportsThings to do
Safra Square: better for basketball than government

Basketball. Long ago in the game's early days, before everyone realized they were not on the whole a very tall people, Jews were major players, significantly overrepresented on the court. And while the era of Jewish sports mastery has since passed, the Jewish state honors the Jewish heritage of basketball by reserving the sport second place in Israeli athletic affections (after soccer, of course). Maccabi Tel Aviv may be populated by nearly as many NBA castoffs as born Israelis, but they're our NBA castoffs, and we love them even if they sometimes embarrass us by losing to the Europeans.

Fortunately for basketball lovers in Israel, soon you'll have something to do other than read about which Americans and Brazilians are becoming Israelis under the Basketball Law of Return (The Law of Rebound?) - because it's time for the annual Jerusalem Streetball tournament. The tournament, which divides Safra Square into 16 basketball courts, is probably Israel's largest sports event open to any player, with teams divided by age. Public figures are getting in on the fun too, including players from the professional Israeli basketball leagues and Knesset ministers. Can those dour boys from Shas ball? Maybe you'll find out (or maybe not).

Other activities on tap include dunking contests, 3-point shootouts and showy performances by the Israel contingent of the And1 Streetball organization. Registration has already begun, so do not miss this once-a-year chance to shoot hoops with Israeli basketball's finest. You can register online at the Municipality's website, or in person at Safra Square. The tournament itself runs from 12 to 14 July.

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Heaven and hell in Malcha

by josh December 09 2008


Some former Beitar fan is going to have a cold winter without his scarf

Beitar Jerusalem likes to use the advertizing/intimidation tactic of calling their home at Malcha's Teddy Stadium hell. It has indeed been hell so far this year, but only for Jerusalem - not the visiting teams. Though the season is more than half through, Jerusalem's corps of insane, obnoxious and xenophobic fans - and, to be fair, completely normal and nice ones, too - have yet to see their team win a game at home. They sunk so low as to tie with lowly Bnei Sakhnin late last month, in what was expected to be a racially tinged blowout. Their season, in the dumps so far, seems to be a continuation of their horrible 5-0 loss to Wisla Krakow over the summer, which many hoped would just be an aberration. Right.

Over in that other ballgame popular in Israel (sorry IFL), though, Hapoel Jerusalem, normally cellar dwellers, has been tearing up the hoops charts. On Sunday they affirmed their league-leading placement by edging out other frontrunner Galil-Gilboa for first place in the Premier League-  which they now share with traditional powerhouse Maccabi Tel Aviv . In Euroleague play as well, Jerusalem trounced Larissa, Greece even after suffering a surprising loss to Amsterdam. We at Jerusalemite don't like to toss around the term Cinderella much, but maybe this is proof that the messiah is on his way?

Many have pointed to scandal-plagued fallen billionaire-cum-failed politician Arkadi Gaydamak as a reason for the soccer team's recent failures, as he's been unable to inject the same excitement, and George Stienbrenner-like money into the team, instead saddling them with Marge Schott-like abuse. Of course, Gaydamak is also a major sponsor of the basketball team, too, so so much for that argument.

Jerusalemites are no fair-weather fans. Chances are that even if the soccer team's woes continue, fans will stick with it, and not switch over to burning things in the basketball arena (people yes, things no). While some may ask if Hapoel can continue their high level of play and oust Macabbi Tel Aviv from their usual spot as premier league champs - as Holon did last year - the more prescient question would be, if they do, will anybody care?

Picture of trashed Beitar scarf from Flickr user Odim under a Creative Commons license.

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This week in Jerusalem

by michael September 11 2008
This week in JerusalemArtFor the kidsSportsThings to do
Jerusalem's Kidron Valley
Plumb the depths of the Kidron Valley this week in Jerusalem

Less than three weeks until the High Holidays begin, and the city is all aflutter with the activity of hundreds of thousands of people preparing for the most enjoyable holiday since... uh... Purim? But just because everyone's busy doesn't mean there isn't plenty to do this week:

  • And once the aforementioned kids are safely tucked in, have some more adult fun at the Yellow Submarine with Aya Korem - the pop singer behind the immortal line, "Yonatan Shapira, make me babies."
  • A lot is going on religiously in Jerusalem lately - Ramadan for Muslims and Elul for Jews. Find out what makes the faiths tick by joining Beit Shmuel Friday on an English-language walking tour of religion in Jerusalem.
  • Special-needs children know how to take a pretty compelling photograph - see for yourself Friday at the newly-opened Children's Photography Exhibit at the Naggar School in Musrara.
  • Walk through the valley of the shadow of death (in a sense) with the Jerusalem Municipality on Shabbat as an expert guide takes a group on a free English-language tour of the Kidron Valley.
  • Canaanites get the blues too - hear the proof at "Canaanite Blues," a Saturday night Beit Shmuel concert covering Levantine shepherd, cowboy and farmer folk songs. Just like Willie Nelson, only with more glottal stops.
  • Thank God for those Mormons - without Brigham Young's concerts, Jerusalem would be totally dead on Sunday. This week, see the Gropius Ensemble play Bach, Debussy and some originals, all for free.
  • Nobody does self-flagellation like the aesthetes of Israeli theater. The politically charged Holy Ground, a localization of an Algerian play, is running at the Khan. Catch it Sunday night.
  • Even if you're from that country where they don't play football "soccer", now that you're in the wider world, there's no excuse for you not to put down a pint and let out your inner hooligan Monday night when HaTaklit broadcasts the Tottenham match.
  • Speaking of theater aesthetes, if you fancy yourself one, don't miss out on the opportunity to audition Tuesday evening for the Merkaz's English-language staging of the one, the only Rent!
  • And to atone for that audition, join the Tower of David Museum Tuesday on a nighttime tour of the Old City that ties the city's holy sites to the slichot, special prayers of penitence sung by Jews during the month of Elul.
  • Like wine? Like art? Then join the good people at the Merkaz Wednesday for an up-close encounter with the artists of Chutzot HaYotzer, with lectures, discounted art prices and wine - all in English.

And do we have to say it again? There are always plenty more events for the coming week in the Jerusalemite Events section. Have a great weekend!

Image courtesy of ChrisYunker from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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Holy city options for pigskin with your beer

by josh September 05 2008
SportsThings to do
A proper sports bar

If I forget thee, o proper sports bars of North America....

It's been over seven months since the New England Patriots gave the rest of America a perfect season. Once again, Jerusalem gears up to enjoy that glorious time when "football" once again means oh so much more than the kicking game.

Living a continent away from the NFL, now that the formerly uber-popular NFL Europe (or NFL Europa, or the place where Kurt Warner played between bagging groceries and winning a Super Bowl, is defunct), doesn’t mean American expats have to miss out on the joys of the gridiron, Kraft league notwithstanding.

For those who like to recreate the American sports bar experience, there is always Mike's Place, the closest thing to home - outside of Baka, the German Colony, Ben Yehuda Street, Ramat Bet Shemesh, all of Gush Etzion, you get the point. Many downtown bars, especially around Rivlin Street, like HaTaklit, Stardust and Zolli's, have large TVs, primarily for the watching of soccer, or futbol or whatever. After some prodding by a critical mass of fans, some barkeeps can be nudged into actually making use of that satellite subscription and tuning the TV to some pigskin, even if most of them don't know the difference between Tom Brady and Brady Quinn. (Which one plays with Kobe?)

The stay-at-home-inclined also have a number of options. If you've don't have a satellite package or Slingbox, there is always the pseudo-legal Sopcast, which broadcasts not just most football but pretty much any sport you want. Just beware, the audio is often from strange foreign countries that treat English as if it were a second language. And if you don't mind being preached to, or having your beliefs reconfirmed, there is the Cypress-based missionary channel METV, which shows a few games a week - usually with the ads as they run on network TV in the States, an extra bonus.

Being half a world away does have some benefits, chief among them the fact that Israel's seven-hour time difference from America's east coast creates a bizarro game schedule where most "afternoon" games are shown at prime time, though watching the actual prime time matchups means pulling an all-nighter. And for the shabbat-observant set, "college football Saturday" is now watchable "college football Saturday night." Go State! Having an ocean between you and the criminally minded Jacksonville Jaguars or Cincinnati Bengals also can't hurt.

Image of a real American sports bar courtesy of Traveling Fools of America from Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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This week in Jerusalem

by michael August 21 2008
This week in JerusalemFilmFoodFor the kidsSportsThings to do
Not Stomp at all.
Like Stomp, but Israeli: the Jerusalem Theatre's end of summer party

As the high holidays become visible on the horizon (they're closer than it seems), summer festival season continues in earnest in the city, with Jerusalemites trying to cram in as much freewheeling good times as possible before the rigor of days of rest and days of fasting. Weather aside, it's a good time to be out and about, because, as it so happens, there will be beer...

  •  X chromosomes go wild at Zimrat Isha, a one-night women-only mini-festival of religiously-inclined music tonight way out in the wilds of Har Nof.
  • If you want to sing in classic old-school Israeli fashion - that is, in a large group and in homage to greatness of the Land of Israel - head down to Mamilla tonight for the first session of Singing in Mamilla, a Municipality series of public singalong concerts.
  • If you haven't been to Chutzot HaYotzer yet, Saturday night is your last chance 'til next year.
  • Help the children learn about the magic of puppets with Quick Goose, a sort of meta-puppet production at the always reliable Train Theater.
  • And all that was only a lead-up: the real fun this week begins Wednesday night when the Jerusalem Beer Festival opens its gates. Barrels of good beer, live music, fascinating demonstrations and, uh...barrels of good beer. More on that later this week. 
Not enough? Nonsense. But if you want to see more, here's everything that's going down in the city this week, courtesy of the Jerusalemite Events section. You best have fun out there.
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Nice move, Jerusalem

by michael July 31 2008
Municipal newsFor the kidsSportsThings to do
Pick on someone your own size, Uri.
Jerusalemite had fifty shekels on the kid

Jews are not especially distinguished in physical sports, but they've always punished at the intellectual ones - especially chess. The ancient game, wildly popular over the last century and a half among the Jews of Europe and one of the few secular pursuits widely embraced by Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodoxy, boasts a roster of all-time champions that's fully 45% Semitic - including the late, awkwardly Jew-hating wackjob Bobby Fischer. 

So it's only fitting that the Jewish capital should play host to the International Chess Festival, a whole month's worth of chess events in Safra Square drawing champions and amateurs from all over the world. The opening event was held yesterday, a day of competition and clowning highlighted by a match-up on a colossal board between Mayor Uri Lupolianski and some adorable checkmating children (pictured above).

If you'd like to witness, or even go up against, Israel's reigning shachmat masters - or you just want to to get your kids into more intellectual pursuits - check out the full schedule of the Chess Festival. It's cerebral fun for the whole family.

Image courtesy of Uriah Tadmor and the Jerusalem Municipality.

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A conversation with Miriam Engel, dancer

by simone June 29 2008
InterviewArtSportsThings to do

Interface I June 28 2008.jpg

Miriam Engel, a dancer with the Kolben Dance Company, is a born-again Jerusalemite. Born in the city's Beit HaKerem neighborhood, she thought her passion for dance would exile her to Tel Aviv. After a summer workshop led her to Kolben, Jerusalem's own highly acclaimed modern-dance troupe, Miriam was able to return to the city she has always called home. Founded in 1995 by Amir Kolben, the Kolben Dance Troupe (previously known as Kombina) incorporates theater, music and multi-media art forms into its performances and has been invited to perform in contemporary dance festivals throughout Europe, Africa and the Americas. Next week, the troupe kicks off the 2008 Summer Nights series before setting sail for Cyrpus, where they will perform at the Gonyeli Dance Festival, before returning to Jerusalem for a free performance at the Gerard Bechar Center.

When did you first begin dancing? Where did you train? Dance runs in my family. My grandmother left her native Bulgaria to train and dance in Germany with Grett Palucca at the Palucca School of Dance in Dresden. I first started dancing when I was three. Shortly after my third birthday I announced to my mother that I wanted to dance, so she started sending me to a dance group near our home in Beit HaKerem.

Although I went to a religious girl's high school, we were offered dance classes. After graduating, I danced for a bit with Vertigo (Kolben's neighbor in Nachalot's Gerard Bechar Center) before moving to Kibbutz Gaaton in the Western Galilee, to study at the Kibbutz's Dance Village [home to the acclaimed Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and the Dance and Ballet School, which offers a four-year accredited study program).

How did you become involved with the Kolben Dance Company? When I finished my studies at Kibbutz Gaaton....(click here for the full interview)
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Jerusalemite Opinion: Two wrongs don't make a right

by Frankie April 21 2008


Betar Jerusalem Fans


Betar Jerusalem clinched its second straight Israeli Premier League football (soccer) championship this week and as expected and has become accustomed in recent years, the fans stormed the pitch before its game at Teddy Stadium against Herzliya was officially over. Betar was winning 1-0 at the time. The stunt, a common one in Israeli football, which has been done countless times before by fans from all the major teams, was expected, even though the club and police had hoped to prevent it. In the end, the referee was unable to clear the field to play the last minutes and filed his report with the Israeli Football Association accordingly.


On Thursday the IFA’s judicial committee ruled on Betar’s punishment: A technical loss in that game, removal of 2 points from the team’s results and playing the rest of the season’s home games without fans. Accordingly, Betar is now not the champion yet and will need to win a game or two combined to re-clinch the title.


The ruling managed to irk the vast majority of football fans. Aside from Betar fans, supporters of Maccabi Tel Aviv, Hapoel Tel Aviv, Maccabi Petah Tikva and Hapoel Kfar Saba are also angry since Herzliya now leapfrogs them all in moving from 10th place to sixth for a “victory�? in which it failed to score any goals. Likewise the two teams fighting relegation, Ashdod and Bnei Yehuda, see their hopes of staying alive dampened as Herzliya pulls away with three unearned points.


You surely won’t hear me saying that Betar fans should go unpunished for storming the pitch, but shouldn’t the punishment fit the crime? And shouldn’t those who are supposed to keep the order look in the mirror as well?


Click here for more...

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Jerusalemites take the gridiron

by greg April 14 2008
SportsHolidaysThings to do


We know that for those of you who grew up on sports (not all English-speaking immigrants to Israel are hippies), Jerusalem doesn't have as much to offer as you're used to. No baseball, no hockey, no women's synchronized swimming – but there's plenty of football. Not soccer – football. Tackles, pads and everything.

Yes, Jerusalem is the proud owner of the very-first-ever Israel Bowl Championship! Less than two weeks ago (before the launch of Jerusalemite), Haifa came to town and battled the hell out of the field and ball with the hometown Big Blue Lions.

The championship game was the culmination of over a year of hard work, on and off the field. Some 90 percent of league players are natives, and all live here (unlike the baseball league's importing of really, really good baseball players). Jerusalem claimed the league's best record, at 8-1, with its only loss in a midseason game against Hiafa. From October to March, the team practiced and played at Kraft Family Stadium (Kraft of the Boston Krafts) – the nice place to play next to the municipal Sacher Park.


Now if anyone is bummed that he or she didn't know, missed games or wants to play next year, there's no reason to get down. The next season will start up again some time after the fall holidays, so you can still go back to America to celebrate leaving Egypt and coming into Israel, then go to America for the summer and then come back for the holidays before you go home again and then... watch football in Jerusalem!

The league is only going to grow, and that means more football for everyone. There was a recent "draft" day at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and more than 60 students expressed interest in playing. This means Jerusalem may have a second team next year (can anyone say "Light Rail Series?").

Oh yes, the game. Jerusalem took it in overtime. Very, very dramatic. You should have been there.

Anyone interested in information or playing should visit the league's site and sign up for rookie training camp to be held during the week of Pesach.

Jerusalem's offense lines up against Haifa in the title game (top), courtesy Mitchell Barak. Bob Kraft shakes hands with AFI president Steve Leibowitz as IFL Commissioner Eric Amkraut and members of Big Blue Jerusalem look on (above), courtesy IFL.

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