The Shmooze

Americans Save Israeli Soccer Team Beitar Jerusalem

By Nathan Burstein

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One of Israel’s most storied — and racism-tarnished — sports teams has new owners, a pair of Americans who hope to change the atmosphere at games.

Dan Adler, a former Hollywood talent agent and vice president at Walt Disney Imagineering, purchased the team with fellow US investor Adam Levine. The duo are taking on a sports franchise that was once one of Israel’s wealthiest, but has suffered a series of financial and administrative problems in the last half-decade.

Adler’s purchase of the team drew extra attention in Israel because of his affiliation with dovish organizations that support a two-state solution — a position many Beitar supporters reject. Fans of the club have appalled many Israelis — but no doubt pleased others — with racist chants at games, including “Death to Arabs” and “Terrorist, Terrorist.” The team has never had an Arab player, and in 2009 a team captain apologized, due to fan anger, for suggesting that an Arab player might someday join the team.

The son of a Holocaust survivor, Adler mostly avoided politics during an interview with Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot. But he told the paper, “I know Beitar has a certain reputation — or rather, that a portion of the fans has a certain reputation.”

Referring to himself and Levine, he added, “We believe that Jerusalem is a city where all types of people must live,” and said, “We will change the character of the crowd.”

An Israel Policy Forum board member and a member of the American Jewish Committee’s National Board of Governors, Adler ran for congress earlier this year as a Democrat. Though the bid was unsuccessful, he earned brief national attention for one of the campaign’s more memorable, and more unusual, commercials.


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