By David Wiseman
The crazy thing about growing up in Australia is that they play everything. From cricket to baseball and karate to kayaking. They even have four different kinds of football!
So, from a young age, I developed an appreciation for all sports. After making Aliyah from Sydney in 2004, I noticed that in Israel, it’s just about basketball and soccer. If you don’t play one of these sports, there isn’t much coverage, unless your achievements are spectacular.
Ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics, a friend (Canadian Olah) and I discussed how there wasn’t much news about the Israeli Olympic team heading to London. We decided that we would take it upon ourselves to share their stories.
Our Facebook page, Follow Team Israel was born. We actually got to meet the Olympic team before they headed off.
Thereafter, we kept plugging away, but it wasn’t until the 2018 Winter Olympics that the page really took off. What happened then?
We posted this video of Israeli figure skater Alexey Bychenko. We didn’t know it but with this video, we achieved what every social media poster dreams about – virality. It exploded with over half a million views and 6000 likes. Not bad for a page with 5,000 followers in total. We were on our way.
Of course, everything is relative. Three years later, our 2021 video of Linoy Ashram’s gold medal presentation had over 37,000 likes, 2,000 comments and close to 6,000 shares.
If you follow the mainstream media, you wouldn’t have a clue about Israeli sailing, surfing, shooting or softball. You wouldn’t know anything about Israeli canoeing, climbing or cricket.
The irony of what we do is that we’re only scratching at the surface of how many fantastic stories there are.It has been an honor to help generate a connection between the athletes and the fans.
From Linoy Ashram to Avishag Semberg we’ve been privileged to meet many of our amazing athletes. When we tell them we’re from Follow Team Israel, they know who we are.
From Novak Djokovic to Chris Froome, we’ve met many incredible international athletes who’ve come to the Holy Land to compete.
Follow Team Israel is a hobby – everything about it is completely organic and many of our fans don’t even consider themselves sport fans. It doesn’t matter to them that they don’t know one end of a golf club from the other, they love the fact that people are representing Israel in something they’re passionate about.
It is also important for people who love sport and are considering Aliyah to know that coming to Israel doesn’t only not mean the end of your sporting career, it could be the beginning. People who’ve made Aliyah have gone on to represent Israel in international competition. One can only imagine how exciting it is to wear the blue and white and hear Hatikvah play.
When you consider this, it makes you realise that the result isn’t that important. Sure, it’s great to win, but to represent a country which required a number of miracles over thousands of years just to exist… it puts everything into perspective.
It’s interesting how Israeli sport has evolved since the page started. We now have an Israeli team in the Tour De France, Israel just hosted its first ATP Tournament in over 25 years, and Israel is hosting more European and World Championships than ever before.
We just had our best ever Olympics – winning 4 medals, 2 of which were gold at the Tokyo Olympics. Some of the other countries to win 2 gold at Tokyo were Greece, Turkey, Ecuador, and Ireland. This isn’t bad company.
When 99% of the news about Israel is political and soaked in conflict, it’s refreshing to have news that makes everyone feel good, puts a smile on their face, and instills a sense of togetherness. Regardless of the sport, we’re all cheering for Team Israel.