The men’s basketball team from Maale Adumim, east of Jerusalem, made history Wednesday defeating Lod 101-65 and advancing to the prestigious National League, second only to Israel’s Premiere League.
It will be the first time Maale Adumim has made it to the National League, only 15 years after joining Israel’s men’s Basketball Association. Even more significantly, this is the first time a team from east of the 1949 armistice “green line” participates in Israel’s top two men’s basketball leagues.
After defeating its only real rival, Maccabi Rechovot, two weeks ago, MA needed to win its last two games to secure its spot in the next division. They got through a tough game against Shoham at home and practically obliterated Lod by 36 points in the last game.
Head Coach Yair Gewirtz was ecstatic after the game and promised that MA would not rest until they reach the Premier League, dominated by legendary teams such as Maccabi Tel Aviv.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for my team, the management, and the city and this puts MA on the basketball map of Israel,” said Gewirtz while being showered by his players with post-game champagne.
Both Maccabi MA and Maccabi Rechovot ended up with a 22-2 balance for the season, but MA outscored its rival by ten points in their two matches.
Maale Adumim Mayor Benny Kashriel attended the final game and was very excited at the outcome: “We are full of tremendous pride and thanks to all who worked so hard for us to get here,” he said.
For Head Coach Gewirtz this is the culmination of the many years he played youth and men’s basketball for the city, first as team captain and ultimately coaching throughout the 15-year run-up to the second division. Gewirtz’s squad underachieved in his first year as head coach, suffering through injuries and plain bad luck, but he held the squad together for a surprising fourth-place finish before this year’s historic run.
The team prides itself on several very talented players like Barak Orion and Bar Shefa—son of former Israeli Basketball star Doron Shefa (played for Premiere League teams Hapoel Jerusalem, Hapoel Gilboa/Afula, Maccabi Haifa, and Hapoel Holon), but all year long the key man on the team was LA-born Simcha Halpert, last season’s star of the historic Yeshiva University team that had a 35-game winning streak (they could have made it 37, but their last games and the season were canceled on account of the Corona pandemic).
Halpert signed with Maale Adumim and became its lead scorer. Now the team is looking to sign new foreign players for their first season with the big boys. Well, the second biggest.