TORONTO – An ice hockey scholarship has been established – at a university in Jerusalem, Israel. The program will allow promising Israeli players to combine hockey and university studies.
There's nothing unusual about elite hockey players attending university on scholarships – unless the university happens to be in Jerusalem. The 5000-year old city, which is holy to three religions, has been known for many things throughout the years, and ice hockey is not necessarily one of them.
But the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University (CFHU) has established a scholarship program to allow promising Israeli hockey players to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (CFHU) is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the awareness, leadership, and financial support of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Ice hockey can't compare in popularity with basketball and football in Israel, but the country features an enthusiastic if small hockey community. The hub of Israeli hockey is Metulla, the northernmost city in Israel, close to the Lebanon border.
The Canada Centre sports complex includes the country's only international-size ice rink, along with the Canada-Israel Hockey School. This year marks 20 years since Israel joined the IIHF in 1991.
Israel has about 500 registered hockey players, and there is an eight-team Israeli Hockey League along with an Israel Recreational Hockey Association. The country is ranked 40th in the men’s IIHF World Ranking, out of 48 hockey playing nations.
Israel won last season’s IIHF World Championship Division III and earned promotion to the Division II Group B tier for next year. In the process they defeated South Africa, Luxembourg, Greece and Turkey.
In 2006 Israel was qualified to play at Division I level against countries like Germany and France, but the newcomers were outscored 47-3 in five games and relegated to Division II.
The Metulla hockey school was spearheaded by Canadian businessman Sidney Greenberg, and has sponsors including the National Hockey League and Air Canada. Now, the CFHU is joining these supporters, by offering a high school athlete from the school a scholarship for an academic year at the Hebrew University.
"Hockey has grown in popularity in Israel, and with the strong Canadian connection supporting the sport, it's fitting that we help young Israeli hockey players to further their studies at home," says Rami Kleinmann, National Director, CFHU.
"Like the NHL and Air Canada, we're proud to promote hockey in Israel, in this case by offering a scholarship program to the teenagers who play it."
While Canadians see playing hockey as an essential part of the national culture, the sport's benefits can apply equally to building the character of youth in Israel, notes Kleinmann.
"Hockey gives young people discipline and the ability to make decisions quickly, something that will serve them well in school and in life," he says. "We're proud to reward Israeli teens who've embraced and excelled in hockey, and who we hope will excel off the ice in pursuing their academic goals."
The Hebrew University in Jerusalem opened in 1925, 23 years before the State of Israel was established. The first Board of Governors included Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Martin Buber and Chaim Weizmann.
-- by IIHF.com staff with files from cfhu.org and cnw.ca