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University’s Sports Teams Prove a Winner in More Ways than One

“They were playing together for a common purpose, Jews and Arabs.” Avipal Kotter, assistant director of the University’s Physical Education Unit, was describing a recent college tournament in Europe in which the University’s soccer team took part.

“Some of the other teams, especially from France and Spain, wondered how Jews and Arabs could not only play on the same side, but share the same room,” he continued. “They saw how the teams from Algeria and Lebanon were hostile to the Israelis. They thought that Jews and Arabs only fought. And here was our team, 30 percent Arabs. It changed perceptions. It was a shock to the French and others. It showed the University in a good light. It did good service for Israel.”

Although Kotter didn’t say so, it probably helped, too, that the University of Haifa team placed high in the tournament.
Sports are not the thing at Israeli universities as they are at American colleges. It would, in fact, probably come as a surprise to faculty and staff alike, if not many of the students, as well, that the University offers 22 different sports teams. Not every team is fielded every year, since not every sport can attract a sufficient number of varsity players each time.

In one unusual twist, there is a team, but no facility of its own to practice or play. “We must be in the Guinness Book of Records for having the only water polo team that has no pool,” Kotter laughed.
There are no leagues as such. The Academic Sports Association (ASA) is the Israeli equivalent of the U.S.’s NCAA. Most games take place in ASA tournaments, such as a four-day winter meet in Eilat. This past winter, a 6-man University of Haifa team competing in a series of 7 different sports—from tug-of-war, weight lifting, and wall climbing, to paddle-boating, and others—placed second in the competition.

In other ASA competitions, the women’s mini-soccer team claimed the championship for 2005, and the men’s navigating team came in second in that sport. The men’s mini-soccer team also placed second in the ASA championships.
Although “there is not a sports culture here,” as Kotter put it, “the University of Haifa does offer modest scholarships to outstanding sportsmen and women. No recruiting for sports teams goes on here at the University or in Israel, he states. He backtracks from this assertion somewhat, noting parenthetically that some of the newer private colleges around the country have begun to recruit players. In the U.S., he says by way of comparison, colleges constitute the route on the way to the pros. Here [at the University and in Israel] it’s almost the other way.

The scholarships that the University awards are for outstanding achievement on the field or court. But they may even go to non-playing volunteers—a student who out of dedication voluntarily performs all the clerical, technical, and even janitorial work for a team—and roots them on. Varsity players are exempt from the compulsory sports requirement that is incumbent on every B.A. student at the University. In addition, players on teams that have to practice a fair amount of time are given four academic credits by way of compensation.

Students who want to teach sports can do an M.A. program in Physical Education that the Faculty of Education offers in conjunction with the Wingate Institute, Israel’s premier sports institute and college. Students and staff who want to demonstrate their fitness can participate in the annual Spring run in memory of Ilan Shapira or can work out in the University gym, which has recently honored requests to open earlier in the morning two days a week.

It is Avipal Kotter’s fifth year with the University’s Sports Unit, and he is under no delusion about putting Haifa on a par with any of the U.S. college sports powers. The fact, however, that his teams have shown the Europeans and even some Arab countries that Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs can and do cooperate to produce a winner propels University of Haifa sports, in his eyes, into the Big Leagues. “They put the University, and Israel, in a good light,” he says with understated pride.

soccer, mini-soccer for men, mini-soccer for women, volleyball for women, volley ball for men, basketball for men, basketball for women, handball for men, chess, karate, judo, swimming, water polo, surfing, tennis, table tennis, squash, marksmanship, fencing, navigating, track and field, bicycling.


In This Issue:

President’s Focus - Battling Unjust Resolutions

Prof. Azy Barak’s SAHAR Offers a Vital Virtual Shoulder to Those with Nowhere Else to Turn

University Joins War on Drugs,
Campaign Is Integral to Interdisciplinary Clinical Center’s Service

Kidma Project Helps Students Face Their Identities

University Will Not Be Silent in Face of UK Boycott

Anat Liberman Is New External Relations Head

Prof. Majid Al-Haj to Be New Dean of Research

Prof. Sophia Menache – New Dean of Graduate Studies

Prof. Menachem Mor—Dean of Humanities

Virtual Open House Proves a Big Hit

Students Have an Address for Complaints: Professor Schatzker, Their Ombudsman

Computer Science and Occupational Therapy Team Up for Virtual Reality Conference
Student Develops Innovative Technology to Deal with Post-Traumatic Stress

Giora Lehavi: His Job Is to Check on Quality Management, and Other Standards

University’s Sports Teams Prove a Winner in More Ways than One

Student Publishes His Road to Wisdom

Honors and Awards

Mother and Son—in utero—Studied Hebrew at University’s Summer Ulpan

University’s China Connection Continues

Unique Algorithm Enables Better Mobile Wireless Communication




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