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Monday, August 12, 2013

Beitar Jerusalem soccer club decides to keep the Sabbath

One of Israel's top soccer teams, and without a doubt its most controversial, has announced that it will not play any of its home games this season on the Sabbath, bucking the trend in the country.
The club is trying to rebrand itself away from the disrepute that some of its fans have brought it into with repeated racist chanting and attacks on Arabs in Jerusalem.

Beitar Jerusalem FC said Sunday that it had come to an agreement with Israeli broadcasters to ensure that its home games will only be played on Saturday night or on weekdays.

The Sabbath begins at sunset on Friday evening and ends at sunset on Saturday night.

Israel's league games are often played before the end of the Sabbath, especially in the summer when the sun sets later in the evening. While some religious groups have voiced concerns over that in the past, this is the first time an Israeli team has pushed to make a definitive move on the issue.

Beitar spokesman Oshri Dudai told The Associated Press that the club was aiming to make it easier for the more religious or traditional Jewish Beitar fans to attend the team's games at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium.

Dudai described the move as "a big achievement," and said club owner Eli Tabib had held lengthy negotiations with the broadcasters over the plans.

"It was not easy to reach this agreement, but we are trying it out this season," Dudai said.
A statement on the club's official website said that "despite the economic risk, Tabib preferred to accommodate the crowd and give more sectors of the community the option to come and support the team."

Israel has always held sporting events on Saturdays and Jewish holidays, apart from Yom Kippur, considered the holiest day of the year.
However, the move is not completely unprecedented as the Israeli national soccer team usually doesn't play home games before the end of Sabbath.

Other sports teams around the world have also refused to play on days considered religiously significant.

Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, which is owned and operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, refuses to allow any of its sports teams to play on Sundays.

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