Last night I attended my first basketball game in Israel! I had a great time seeing the game in a new country’s setting.
I was invited to the game by Juli who I met sweating it out at an F45 class last weekend.
We were joking about not being able to understand the instructors’ Hebrew directions for the workout. Luckily we could just look at the person ahead of us — so we stuck together just in case one of us missed a move.
Juli is an American from Dallas and spending the next month here in Tel Aviv with her boyfriend who plays basketball on the Tel Aviv Maccabi team.
This is Juli’s second trip to Israel after coming for 6 weeks in October. She attends all the games when she’s in town. Tonight she had an extra ticket for me.
Juli and I met at a bar near the arena called Dixies because she had to drop her boyfriend off at the arena before arriving. It was what she described as one of the few American bars in town where the wings and mojitos were “must haves”.
She was right! The game started late by American standards, 9 pm. So, we headed over to the arena shortly after 9. Julie joked that she’s never been late before, but we had to try the wings and have a mojito.
I noticed Juli had quickly acclimated to Tel Aviv driving. Her SUV was parked just outside the bar ON THE SIDEWALK! The arena was just a few blocks away and she had access to go through the gated area to park next to the entrance since her boyfriend was a player.
The Menora Mivtachim Arena is a large sports arena located in Southern Tel Aviv.
It holds 10-thousand fans and I noticed right away it was set up a little different than American Arenas. There was a pharmacy located on the first floor that you can access from the street. We walked up the stairs to our seating area and tonight the arena was NOT full.
I was told by Juli and by my neighbor, who is a basketball agent in Israel, that tonight’s game would not be well attended. The reason, it was an Israeli league game vs a European league game played by the national team. Other than attendance, the other difference is these Israeli league games are commentated in Hebrew. I’m told in the European league games, the announcer speaks English. But this was basketball, so no translation needed.
Juli’s boyfriend was on fire this night! He’s a guard and was the MVP of the game. I asked Juli if he got recognized on the streets in Tel Aviv and she told me all the players get recognized. She told me super tall black men are not the norm here… and the wife of another player told me the same for the white players as well.
Another difference from American games…I did not notice anyone drinking beer. Perhaps alcohol is not allowed at the games. I was also told when I went to buy a bottle of water, bottles are also not permitted. So, I bought a small CUP of water for 6 NIS. The same tiny cup for my water is what soft drinks are sold in as well. This cup is the size of a kid-sized drink in the US. Compared to the supersized drinks in American arenas and stadiums, this size was laughable. Not to self, try not to get super thirsty at a basketball game.
The popcorn I couldn’t resist that was being sold from the aisle was lightly salted and NO BUTTER. Luckily, I like it that way, but I’m sure it would be a huge disappointment for many American fans.
I had a great night seeing the game and experiencing basketball for the first time in Israel.
It was also nice to meet some of the girlfriends and wives of the players and hear their stories about how they got here.
Juli’s boyfriend played in the NBA and this was his first season playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv and also on the national team. The players play on both leagues at the same time which results in a lot of games every week! He hopes to eventually go back to the states and play in the NBA again. I was invited to come back to another game and hopefully it will be a European league game so I can experience that as well!