Sports in Israel
Historically, taking hikes and being physically active in nature has been an important component of Israeli culture, emphasizing the strong relation of the young, new settlers to the land. Today, hiking and sporting activities in general are still very popular in Israel. Many Israelis participate in team sports, fitness activities or running. The city parks are flooded with runners during the weekend and (mountain) biking has also become a major leisure activity in recent years. The exceptions are Orthodox Jews who generally are not very physically active.
The most popular sport in Israel is soccer. This, however, does not mean that Israel’s teams are very successful internationally. As it cannot compete with neighbouring countries due to boycotts and strained relationships, the national football team is allowed to participate in the European Football Championship. In 2004 and in 2008 it did not qualify. Basketball is the second most popular sport in Israel and the country has been quite successful in the international basketball leagues. The most successful team is Maccabi Tel Aviv, which won the European Championship five times, the last time in 2004-2005.
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