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Gerald Holland
May 25, 1959
Tell it not in Gath, runs an Old Testament injunction, publish it not in Askelon. But there's news that won't keep now: in cities, settlements and kibbutzim, the people are finding time, at last, for games
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May 25, 1959

From Eire To Israel

Tell it not in Gath, runs an Old Testament injunction, publish it not in Askelon. But there's news that won't keep now: in cities, settlements and kibbutzim, the people are finding time, at last, for games

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Baruch Bagg said it was time to plant the tree. Every visitor coming to Wingate for the first time plants a tree. I planted one for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, and Mr. Bagg said a sign would be made noting the date and the name. As we walked to Chaim Glovinsky's car I noticed a whole grove of trees, dedicated to the memory of the late Mrs. August A. Busch Sr. The grove was the gift of her son, Gussie, of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Before we left, Colonel Henshel gave Baruch Bagg a final piece of good news. The U.S. Committee, said the colonel, would soon start a campaign to get Wingate a $100,000 swimming pool and natatorium to be named for Bob Kiphuth the famous swimming coach at Yale. (Kiphuth has gone to Israel twice to hold coaching clinics.)

One of the oldest institutions in Israel is the kibbutz. Some are industrial, some agricultural. Members of the kibbutz own nothing of their own; everything belongs to the community. When a man's shoes begin to wear thin, all he needs to do is ask for another pair; the same for clothing and anything else he needs. Children live apart from the parents in age groups, visit the parents for an hour or so every day. Nobody has a kitchen, all meals are served in the community dining room. One afternoon, Glovinsky and the colonel and I visited a kibbutz near Haifa. It is called Mishmar-Haemek, which means "guard of the valley." There was bitter fighting here in 1948.

We had lunch in the dining room—meat balls and rice and vegetables, dessert and coffee—and after lunch strolled around the beautifully wooded grounds and inspected the dormitories, the classrooms, the shops and the library.

There was an outdoor basketball court, and a game was in progress. The boys played well, but a little later, at the home of Esther and Ernest Adler, who came to Israel from Czechoslovakia in 1934, we met two of the real basketball stars. Six-footers (king-size players are not too common among Israel's youth) Amos Lin and Adam Goren both played on the Mishmar-Haemek team which, at the time of our visit, was leading the national league. Colonel Henshel asked the boys if they had everything they needed in the way of equipment. They didn't. They badly needed gym shoes, and the colonel swiftly made a note of the sizes required. (The shoes were on the way over within 24 hours after the colonel's return to the United States.)

That evening at a sidewalk cafe on Dizengoff Street, Chaim Glovinsky and his wife, Monica, told me more about basketball and how it was that Israel's team was unable to compete in the 1956 Olympics.

Elmer Ripley (Chaim said), the former coach at Notre Dame, Yale, West Point and Georgetown, had developed a fine team for the Olympics. Working against such hazards as inadequate equipment (the boys used to practice barefoot to save their shoes for the games) and the language barrier, Ripley had taught his players the fast-breaking American style of play. Everything looked promising. Ripley himself predicted that Israel would have a chance to finish third behind the Americans and the Russians. Then, on the eve of the Olympics, Nasser closed the Suez Canal, and Israel, France and Britain went to war. Israel army officers showed up at basketball practice one evening and plucked six men, the best six, from Ripley's squad. The Olympic team vanished into the Sinai campaign.

One morning I set out from Hotel Dan in Tel Aviv in the company of Isaac Austrian, a driver and guide for the government. He said we would make an overnight trip to the south. We passed through Jaffa, one of the oldest cities in the world, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, and then headed down to Askelon on the Mediterranean. We stopped first at the ruins of the old Roman city of Askelon, and I copied from a sign over the ruins a Biblical quotation that began, "Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon," with the intention of looking up its context later on. We drove on to the new city of Askelon and stopped at its American-style shopping center with its shops and cinema and cafe. In the cafe (where the Askelon Rotary Club meets every week) we kept an appointment with Philip Gillon, a transplanted South African, and settled down over coffee to talk about sports in that part of the country.

Phil Gillon, a tall, broad-shouldered man, very British in his speech, estimated that the number of athletes in Israel had increased 500% since the state was born.

"New immigrants," he said, "naturally turn to the sports with which they are familiar. Almost everyone is familiar with soccer and chess—is chess a sport? It is. Otherwise, each group continues its interest in the sports it knows best. North Africans go in for cycling and boxing and weight lifting. Immigrants from Egypt are good at basketball. Central Europeans like soccer first, then track and field events and handball. Northern Europeans, again soccer-minded, also like gymnastics and table tennis. Anglo-Saxons have brought in cricket and bowls. Swimming is popular everywhere, especially in the kibbutzim. Three-quarters of the swimming pools in the country are in the kibbutzim, which, of course, also play soccer and basketball."

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