Hapoel Jerusalem

This week, I went to a professional basketball game in Jerusalem. Given my family’s (and, in particular, my father’s), love for basketball, I’ve been fortunate to go to quite a few NBA games in the states, but I’ve never been to a professional sporting event in another country.

The game I went to this week was between Hapoel Jerusalem and Hapoel Eilat. Both are professional basketball club teams that are members of the Israel Premier League – the Jerusalem team is also part of the Eurocup. In fact, it’s been rumored that Amare Stoudemire might join Hapoel Jerusalem after his contract with the Knicks expires in 2015.

The game took place at the brand-spanking-new Jerusalem Pais Arena. The arena can seat close to 12,000 people, and it only opened this past September. I went with a group to the game, and we arrived to the game early and got a good look at the arena before there were any other spectators around:

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The arena was really nice – very similar to a professional sports arena in the U.S.!

The group I went with was lucky to have a special session with Tamir Goodman, an American-Jewish former basketball player who now works for Hapoel Jerusalem. Tamir has a pretty incredible story. He was raised (and remains) an Orthodox Jew, and his dream was always to play Division I college basketball. As a high schooler, he had success as a player, ranking as the 25th best high-school player in the U.S. during his 11th grade year. While he was in high school, Sports Illustrated wrote an article about him, calling him the ‘Jewish Jordan.’


In spite of his success as a high school athlete, it was difficult for Tamir to find somewhere to play in college because he could not play or practice on Shabbat. He made a verbal commitment to the University of Maryland after an agreement that they would accommodate his religious needs. The agreement, however, didn’t work out and he ended up going to Towson University. At Towson, he was the first freshman to earn a starting spot on the team in 11 years, and he had a successful season during that year. After his freshman year, the coaching staff changed and the new coach was less willing to accept Tamir’s religious needs. Tamir left the team in the middle of his sophomore year after being allegedly assaulted by the coach. Although his college career had a disappointing ending, he later moved to Israel where he had a brief career in the Israel league before retiring due to injury.

Tamir talked to our group for about 30 minutes:

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His story was fascinating, and it was amazing to hear all of the challenges he had to navigate in order to become a Division I athlete while still observing all of the traditional religious laws. He is definitely a role model for holding onto one’s values and working hard to achieve goals.


After talking with Tamir, we went out to the arena’s main lobby (which had really cool decorations!) to check our the swag shop:

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While the arena itself was similar to an American sports venue, the food offerings were severely lacking. Like many European sports venues, there is no alcohol sold in Israeli arenas. Also, there was basically only one stand that sold hot dogs, pretzels, nachos, popcorn, drinks, and a couple bagged snacks. I think I’ve gotten way too used to American arenas that have everything from freshly shaved roast beef sandwiches to chocolate-dipped cheesecake…I guess this probably says something about the American entertainment/food industry!

Eventually, we made our way into the arena which was crowded although not entirely full. The warm up was underway and there was A TON of energy from the fans. There were a lot more young people at the game than what I generally see at NBA games. I suspect this is in large part a reflection of the ticket prices. At the Hapoel game there were lots of teenagers who looked to be in high school, and there seemed to be a school band and student section that cheered like crazy the entire game.

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The game ended up being quite the nail-biter. Jerusalem was down by three with only 14 seconds to go…


They had possession and hit a three-pointer right away to make it a tied game with only 10 seconds left. The Eilat team lost the ball on the other end and Jerusalem quickly called a time-out. With four seconds left, Jerusalem inbounded the ball from the side court on their offensive side – BUT THE PERSON WHO THE BALL WAS BEING PASSED TO TURNED AWAY AND STARTED RUNNING THE OTHER DIRECTION SO THE BALL HIT HIM IN THE BACK! An Eilat player scooped it up right away, fast-breaked down the court, and scored a lay-up as the buzzer sounded to win by 2. Ridiculous ending to an exciting game – I sure felt bad for the Jerusalem player who got hit in the back though. He must have felt rull bad.

Nonetheless, this was a SUPER DUPER fun evening. I would definitely like to go to another game while I’m here…maybe even check out some soccer. I hear soccer fans get pretty wild. 🙂

Game Time

Last night, I went to a Timberwolves vs. Clippers game at the Target Center. Although I originally wasn’t planning to attend, my appreciation for basketball combined with the availability of a free ticket left me no option but to head to the game. One warning if you’re going to a T-wolves game at the Target Center: they take their security really seriously! I was almost forced to check my draw-string shoe bag, and I wasn’t allowed to bring my Nalgene into the arena – even if I emptied it of water! To say this exchange with the security guard left me disgruntled would be an understatement. Luckily, my indignation passed soon enough.

Unfortunately, turns out that you get what you pay for when it comes to seats. This is what our $8 (or free, in my case) tickets got us:

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Are those even people down there?! The arena was far from full though, and we used halftime as an opportunity for some sneaky maneuvering that brought us here:

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Not bad, eh? My enjoyment of the game increased significantly once we were in the lower level near the court. In the balcony, there were very few people, no crowd excitement to speak of, and I could see the jumbotron screen better than the court. In contrast, the lower level was big time fun with lots of riled fans and a clear view of all the action. The game was close overall – especially for the last few minutes – but the T-Wolves ended up falling behind at the end and losing.

After the game is when the real adventure began as my life became a scene from this:

Dude, Where's My Car? (2000) Poster
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or this:

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Yep. No one in my group remembered to notice where we left the car in the parking garage. After wandering through the whole 4th floor, we went to the 5th, to return to the 4th…you get the idea. And did I mention that it was freezing?! After what felt like years (although I was assured it had been no more than 20 minutes), we spotted the most beautiful sight on earth:

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HALLELUJAH! Take away messages of the evening: 1) Buy good game seats or stay at home, 2) don’t lose your car.

Second Chances

Things I’ve given second chances:

1. Blogging! My first attempt at blogging was an ill-conceived, highly structured, and enormously time consuming endeavor. My plan was to write once a week about one recipe, one uncovered beauty, one learning, and one error. Like I said…way too structured. I gave up on that after exactly two posts but am now back (obviously) in the blog world, loving it more than ever.

2. Food! I’ve already written a little about my history with an eating disorder. During that time of my life, food was something to be feared and, often, dreaded. Going to a potluck or dinner where I couldn’t make my own meal? Attending an event that would have snacks out for the taking? Receiving food from friends or family as a gift? All of these things were occurrences that created great stress and anxiety. I would go crazy thinking things like: What should I allow myself to eat? How can I get out of this without eating anything? If I eat one thing, will I eat everything? Where is the nearest garbage can I can throw this bag of cookies away in? One of the hardest things about recovery was learning to trust and even *gasp* enjoy food again. Now, I love making meals for myself, trying new restaurants, and going grocery shopping. Food is a big part of life – we need it to survive! – and I’m so glad to have it as a friend again and not an enemy.

3. Basketball! I have literally played basketball all of my life. There are pictures of me as an infant holding a mini-ball in the crib, and – at least according to legend – my first word was ‘ball.’ From the minute I was old enough to play in an organized league, I was on a team. I played year round through junior high and high school, and walked on to the varsity team at college where I played for my freshman and sophomore years. During season at college, I was often at the gym close to 30 hours a week, and practice/games/watching film completely dictated my schedule. What’s more, I had pretty much completely stopped enjoying the game. Playing basketball was a chore – an item on each day’s to-do list – that brought far more stress than enjoyment. Honestly, I had stopped enjoying the sport long before I quit playing, but I loved being part of a team and feared regretting a decision I couldn’t undo. When I finally did quit at the end of the season my sophomore year, I had absolutely no desire to play basketball again. After a couple years went by, I gradually started to feel the ‘itch’ to play again. Last year around winter time, I took the leap and decided to join a rec league. I lucked out and got connected with an awesome group of girls who I have now played 2 basketball, 1 volleyball, and 3 softball seasons with. Right now is basketball season, and every Wednesday evening at games I have the time of my life!

Which brings me to tonight…

go Blue!

go Blue!

Tonight was our third game of the season. Unfortunately, we ended our winning streak (lost by 5), but I still had a great time and thought we played hard. Plus, I found this gem on my way out of the gym:

amen, sister

amen, sister

One of the girls on the team was really nice to invite us all over to her house afterwards for dinner. She gave us the classy treatment and ordered Pizza Luce.

big time yum

big time yum

I had three slices of veggie.