The Greatest Moments in Israeli Sports
Being such a small country, no one really expects Israel to be such a world-renowned sports nation.
Nevertheless, just like in different fields such as Hi-tech, economics, and agriculture, Israel has become quite the international sports hub, with many athletes and teams gaining international fame for their accomplishments. Even with only around 70 years’ worth of sports to show for, we have gathered some of Israel’s greatest and memorable sports moments and achievements.
In 2008 Israeli tennis players Andi Ram and Yoni Erlich recorded Israel’s greatest international tennis achievement when they won the Australian Open Couples Tournament. Their victory made the headlines in all of the news channels in Israel, and in many countries across the world. These two athletes are considered some of Israel’s greatest ever, and we will always be proud of them.
Maccabi Tel Aviv
When it comes to teams, like in every other country in the world, there are major rivalries, however, with Maccabi Tel Aviv, no one can deny their tremendous international success and fame over the years in the European League. In 1977, Maccabi won their first European title, after beating CSKA Moscow in the Semi-Finals, in what seemed to be a symbolic battle between Israel and the USSR. Maccabi went on to win another five European and countless Israeli titles and is the most decorated team in Israel and Europe. Whenever someone thinks of Israeli sports, chances are Maccabi will be the first team that comes to mind.
Only after competing in the Olympics for four decades, Israel succeeded in winning its first medal in 1992, when Yael Arad won the Silver Medal in Judo. Since then Israel has won 8 more Olympic medals in Judo, Sailing, and in Kayaking. The only Israeli athlete to win an Olympic Gold Medal was the sailer Gal Fridman in 2004, in addition to the Bronze Medal he won in 1996.
Did You Know?
Gal Fridman’s Olympic medals were stolen from his parent’s house in 2005 after burglars had stolen the safe that the medals were in. A few days later, his gold medal was returned to Fridman after a child found it lying on the side of the road, but his bronze medal has never been found.
The 1970 World Cup
1970 was a grand year in Israeli history, and not only because that was the year that Osem started manufacturing the addictive Bissli. 1970 was the first (and unfortunately the last) time Israel participated in the FIFA World Cup, that took place in Mexico. The pinnacle of Israel’s national soccer team’s career came when Mordechai Spiegler scored Israel’s only goal against Sweden in the tournament, the only Israeli goal in World Cup history. It may not sound like much now, but that achievement was celebrated throughout Israel as though it were a holiday, and will forever be part of our national history.
Israel’s National Baseball Team was formed in the 1990s and is currently ranked 19th in the world (2019). The team finished in 6th place in the World Championship in 2017 and in 4th place in the 2019 European Championship, but the team’s greatest moment by far was qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. That will be the first time since 1976 that an Israeli team qualified for the Olympic Games. Respect and good luck!
Welcome to The NBA
Omri Caspi was the first Israeli to play in the NBA. The moment the Sacramento Kings drafted him in the 2009 NBA Draft was a moment that most Israelis will remember forever, even those who are not big basketball or sports fans. Although his career stats might not be too impressive (he even held the title for longest active player without a playoff appearance- 10 years!), our international sports ambassador spent ten years in the best league in the world, not too shabby. Casspi is widely regarded as arguably the greatest Israeli athlete ever. You’re just going to have to decide that for yourself.
As you can see, Israel has been making its presence known around the world, making a big splash! Not only have Israelis become huge players in the world of hi-tech, economics, and environmental technology, but in the sport's world too!