Hockey and Israel: A Holy Match?

My husband asked me to read an article (written by Joel Millman), which ran in the 12/19/11 Wall Street Journal:  HOCKEY HEATS UP IN TINY VILLAGE WITH ISRAEL’S ONLY BIG RINK – Players Travel Hours for Chance To Hit the Ice; a Second-Hand Zamboni

And here, without further ado, is my pithy commentary on the above article, which you’ll still enjoy due to my delightful writing style, even if you skipped reading the actual article:

First off…..why a second-hand Zamboni?  What, are they chopped liver over there in Israel?

Secondly, I can already envision problems in the future if females get involved.   After the game….is it off to the showers or the Mikva?  Oy, such a dilemma.  Call in the Rabbi.  (Well, not “in” the room, because even the rebbe can’t go into the womens’ locker room.  But you know what I mean; they’d need to consult a rabbi on how to fix the dilemma.)  The Rabbi’s fix (say this to yourself as if you were Jackie Mason):  fill the Mikva with hot water, throw some ice cubes in there, and then go take a shower.  It’s OK.  Really.  The Rabbi said so.

3.  It totally figures that all this ice hockey got started in Israel due to Canadian Jews (vs. American Jews).  There is a type of what I call a bleeding-heart American Jew who likes to point out how we American Jews are such wimps compared to Israeli Jews.  That may be true, but these people need a better tag line, like “let’s self-flagellate to compensate”.  (What?  Not Jewish enough?)  If these folks really wanted to put their money where their mouths were, they would have financed hockey in Israel long ago.  Or joined the Israeli army.

4.  The only “regulation” hockey rink in Israel is in a tiny village called Metula, although construction has already begun on another ice palace (in the southern/coastal/resort town of Eilat).  The speed with which construction has begun on a second regulation-sized rink in the country did not surprise me at all.  This led me to then wonder how many BACKYARD rinks there are, or will eventually be, in Israel.  (Why not?  You might be surprised how many people have them here.)  Outdoor rinks there would have to be housed within a structure (you should excuse me, maybe a small bubble?) that would probably require year-round air-conditioning.  Both hockey fanatics and Israelis are used to doing things the hard way, so that’s why I see this as something valid to wonder about.

5.  Russians + Israelis + Hockey = super aggressive players, some of whom will have major internal conflicts, because the Talmud warns against the dangers of “competitive fervor” (i.e. the ancient wording for one hockey parent strangling another in the rink after an argument).

6.  Yaromir Yarmulke.  It finally happened.  That’s all I’m gonna say.

7.  Team Names/Logos……we could have a lot of fun with this.  (Bill Maher should do a visual piece on it on his HBO show Real Time!)  Just think of all the whimsically incongruous images to work with, like menorahs and camels, turbans and skullcaps, etc.  There actually is a team called the Rishon Le’tsyon’s Ice Devils……Devils?!!!  Shouldn’t that be the “Ice Dybbuks“?

8.  Coach Andrei Shtefuzza (of the infamous Ice Devils) trains his protégés mostly on non-ice (i.e. in-line skating rinks).  The players get to skate on actual ice only once or twice a year.  Talk about not enough ice time (a common complaint of some American hockey parents).

9.  Tournament names….we could have lots of fun with this, too.  The only one that comes to mind presently is “The Annual Post-High-Holy-Day Metula Classic”.

10.  That’s all we need now…another thing for Jews and Arabs (and Jews and Jews, for that matter) to start fighting about.  In fact, the rink in Metula was originally supposed to be in a neighboring village, but the folks in the whole area argued so much about the issue (i.e., where to locate the gift the Canadian Jews were trying to give them), that it ended up in a different place from where the gift-givers intended.  Now that’s chutzpah.

11.  I do like the logo of the Israel Ice Hockey Federation (it is a large Star of David, with what appears to be a dove clutching a hockey stick emerging from it).  I think it’s very cool; especially conceptually.  The actual name of the organization, though, just sounds so…..Jewishly institutional.  And I don’t know what exactly I mean by that….maybe it’s sort of a ”semetic shabby-chic”.

12.  My Son The Dentist/Hockey Financier:  Dr. Leonard Silverberg, a Winnipeg-born dentist, aged 68, along with an unnamed (in the article) Israeli partner, is financing the new skating center in Eilat.  Silverberg used to run a mess of rinks in California.  Both my husband and I felt that his quote in the article sounded very business-y about the whole issue of running hockey rinks in Israel:  ”In California, we ran 5,000 kids a week.  With a million-plus Russians in central Israel, we’ll have no trouble matching that.”  Is this about love of hockey, or love of money?  I found this disturbing.  I could say…in Israel, hockey (unlike crime) really does peyahs.

13.  Yoav Marer, a hockey prodigy while growing up outside Toronto, moved to Israel in 2007 to “study scripture”.  He is now 29.  He says he skates a fine line (presumably, no pun intended) between enjoying exercise (via hockey) while shunning overt competition.  After all, the Talmud warns us against the dangers of “competitive fervor”, right?  One good, thing, though:  Thursday nights, they’ve got up to three automatic quorums/minyans for evening prayers.  Even the Church Lady would have to say, “How convenient“.

14.  Bat Yam Jet Turtles.  Dude.  It’s a real team name.

15.  Levav Weinberg, who is an apple grower, “anchors” the Metula team (called the Macabis; cool name!).  Weinberg says hockey offers balance for him:  he splits his life between summers, when he’s “picking apples”, and winters, when he plays hockey.  (And presumably makes a fortune selling loads of hot apple cider at the rink.)

16.  “Passing Pucks to Promote Peace”  is a phrase I liked in this fascinating article.  That’s what Levav Weinberg is now doing:  he’s recruiting Arabs and other non-Jews to be in the existing men’s league.  One group Weinberg tries to draw from are the Druze.  According to this article, the Druze are Arabic-speakers, but not Islamic or Christian.  It’s not indicated that they are Jewish, but that they are “loyal to the Jewish government”.  Many Druze hold Syrian passports, and send their kids to schools in Damascus.  Some Druze parents feel hockey is a good way to show their kids opportunities available in Israel.  (What, goat-tending not attractive to you?  Try to be a professional hockey player in Israel, instead!  Lotsa luck.)

I did truly like the quote provided from a Druze “community leader”:  “Anyone can play soccer.  If you want kids to be special, give them a special sport.  Hockey, with the gear and the ice, gives them more to experience.”  Not to mention the amazing blend of skills required to play hockey well.  We all constantly underestimate what those kids are accomplishing out there on the ice.  Hockey kids rule!!

17.  Quebec Tourney Time!  Dr. Weinberg apparently is sending a team to a February 2012 tournament in Quebec (I’m not sure if the writer meant Quebec City, or another city in Quebec province, like Montreal).  Last year, Weinberg’s all-Jewish team won their division in this tourney.  In 2012, he’s sending a team with both Jews and Arabs.  That made me wonder, with regard to the ever present “noise-maker” issue at many hockey tournaments: will they allow random (upward) machine-gun fire any time Arabs score?  (Note to Dr. Weinberg:   you might want to make the rink roofs bullet-proof in Israel….)

18.  My personal conclusion:  let’s build a bridge of hockey pucks among all people in the Middle East.

At the very least, it would make for a nice team logo.


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2 Responses to Hockey and Israel: A Holy Match?

  1. Paul says:

    1. Chopped liver is expensive. Please send your check for $175,000 (new Zamboni plus spare parts plus shipping/insurance/customs/etc).

    2. Women are already playing in Israel, ranging from age 8 to the bubbie who plays goalie in our Thursday night league. There is no mikvah on the premises, but an indoor pool and jacuzzis (optional). Men and women allowed.
    3. Like, thanks, eh? Send more beer.
    4. We’re working on synthetic ice backyard rinks (the technology has improved, but it still ain’t ice). Sadly, the rink in Eilat is NOT being built for hockey. The owners musta taken a slapshot in the head, cuz they could’ve made more money if they offered hockey too.
    5. Funny how us canucks and the russkies still sit around and talk about….the ’72 series, eh?
    6. Nope. DOn’t got not funny Israeli hockey names for you.
    7. The Ice Devils are the country’s biggest hockey club. The guys who run it look me look normal.
    8. Ice time is not that bad…it’s just the cost for the minibus to drive you 3 hours each way to get to and from the ice…
    9. Oh come on! You didn’t think of the weekly Kiddush Cup ??!?!?!?
    10. Yea, well, they actually did intend to put it in Metulla.
    11. Thanks. I think it’s the 3rd or 4th emblem, but the best so far. Dunno who drew it.
    12. Len is actually a podiatrist, not a dentist (WSJ printed a correction the next day). I wish him luck, but out of those million former Soviets, I’d say only 30-40,000 are potential players/fans. However, that’s still something to work with. Now all he has to do is get them to move to Netanya.
    13. Hockey, jacuzzi, shower, daven maariv, shawaarma on the way home. You and your husband should come to the annual recreational tournament and try it out!
    14. Their real dudes!
    15. Great idea for Levav to sell cider at the rink! Please tell him to do it! (It actually does get a tad chilly in the rink, or downright f!ing cold if you’re not a canuck).
    16. Just wait and see. The Druze are cool dudes and great athletes (especially downhill skiing) when they put their minds to it.
    17. Quebec CIty. And we’re talking about Israeli Arab citizens. Don’t forget that Bedouin Arabs, Druze (and some others) not only are full citizens, they serve in the IDF. Not enough of ’em play hockey. Yet.
    18. There are several Arab countries that belong to the IIHF. It’s only a matter of time before the inevitable happens….and they IIHF suspends them for defaulting instead of playing Israel.

    Want to play hockey hockey in Israel?

    Wanna see what it’s like to play here?

    Is this the longest comment ever posted to any of your blog entries?

  2. Great to read about Yoav Marer!
    I met him in Jerusalem in 2004,
    Another Canadian Jew

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