Welcome to Israel.
Welcome to Israel, Marat Safin. No sooner had you landed than you were struck down by that most Israeli of inflictions, foot-in-mouth-itis. "With all due respect," you said - a sure sign that you were about be disrespectful - "Israel was lucky to get to the quarterfinals."
What have you got to say for yourself now, Marat, now that "lucky" Israel and not mighty Mother Russia is in the Davis Cup semifinal?
And welcome to Israel, the whole Russian team. You could hardly have expected the wall of noise that greeted you at Yad Eliahu yesterday and Friday. The often raucous, always passionate support of the 10,000 Israelis who packed into the converted basketball arena played as much of a role in the Israeli victory as the Russian players' complacence and the Israeli team's almost messianic fervor.
And welcome to Israel, Maccabiah participants. Could we have asked for a more fitting way to start the week in which 7,000 Jewish athletes from Israel and the Diaspora converge for the 18th Maccabiah?
If there is anyone who still believes that the link between Israeli sporting prowess and the Maccabiah exists only in Jewish Agency public relations material, think about this: The two players who sealed Israel's historic victory are both immigrants. Andy Ram was born in Uruguay, Yoni Erlich in Argentina. Friday's heroes, Harel Levy and Dudi Sela, are both sabras.
There really couldn't be a more Israeli triumph than the one we witnessed this weekend: two sabras, two immigrants, 10,000 screaming fans and one country thrown into a frenzy in the most extraordinary of circumstances.
And this is just the beginning of what we hope will be a very special week for Israeli and Jewish sports.
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