As an American Jew who grew up attending Hebrew School on Sundays and Jewish sleepaway camp during the summer, I have seen more than my fair share of Israel documentaries. I’ve watched videos on everything from the Raid on Entebbe to Israel’s irrigation system, and I can say with complete confidence that none of them resonated with me quite like “On the Map.” I had heard of the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team before, but to me it was just another unremarkable sports team. I knew nothing of their origins or momentous victories against well-established European competitors.
“On the Map” made one thing very clear: Maccabi Tel Aviv was so much more than just a group of basketball players. They provided hope and pride to a new nation that was scarred and struggling to find its place in the world. The War of Independence in 1948 may have technically established the state of Israel, but the triumphs and victories of Maccabi Tel Aviv unified the country in a way no war could ever do.
I normally have no trouble controlling my emotions, but I watched the majority of “On the Map” with my hand over my mouth and my heart leaping out of my chest. With every basket they scored, I felt myself pulled closer to tears. If I closed my eyes, it was almost like I was there in the stands, jumping on the benches and cheering myself hoarse for a group of young men who carried their country forward into an era of national pride and worldwide-recognition. Maccabi Tel Aviv put Israel on the map, and watching their victories reinvigorated me to fight to ensure that Israel remains.