Today (Thursday), a series of events were held in Belgrade in the presence of the Israeli Ambassador to Serbia, Yahel Villan, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and Serbia, and the 45th anniversary of Maccabi Tel Aviv's first European Cup victory. The events took place as part of the "One Team – One People" project led by the Center for Jewish Impact, Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club and the World Zionist Organization, in partnership with the Israeli Embassy in Serbia.
The opening events began on Wednesday (March 9), with a festive screening of the film "On the Map" at the Belgrade Cinematheque, documenting the historic European Cup championship of Maccabi Tel Aviv, 45 years ago. The event was followed by a wreath-laying ceremony on Thursday (March 10) morning at the Staro Sajmiste Memorial site, commemorating the tens of thousands of Serbian Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. The group was then hosted as guests of honor in the Serbian Parliament and met with Vladimir Marinković, Head of the Israeli-Serbian Friendship Parliamentary Group.
The representatives of the events were: Chairman of Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club, Shimon Mizrahi, Basketball legend and Ambassador of Goodwill of the State of Israel, Tal Brody, CEO of Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club, Edli Marcus, basketball legend and current VP Sales and Community of Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club, Doron Jamchy, Representative of the Center for Jewish Impact, Col. (res) Aviezer Segal, Director General of the Department of Israel and the Commemoration of the Holocaust in Israel and the Diaspora at the World Zionist Organization, Sarit Handknopf, and other dignitaries.
The goal of “One Team – One People” initiative is to use professional sports as a vehicle to promote tolerance, and to combat antisemitism and bigotry. In addition, it serves as a platform to explore European Jewish history and to enhance ties between Israel and European Jewry, while positively representing Israel throughout Europe.
Yahel Villan, Israel's Ambassador to Serbia: This year, we mark 30 years of Israel-Serbia relations, and 45 years since Maccabi Tel Aviv's first victory in the 1977 European Cup in Belgrade. 4,000 Israeli fans received special permission to enter Belgrade, even though there were no diplomatic relations between the two countries at the time. The event will also be the first of many festivities celebrating this milestone, and we are also pleased and proud to host Maccabi, and specifically, Tal Brody, 45 years after winning the European Cup here.
Robert Singer, Chairman of the Center for Jewish Impact: "Today we mark two historical events engraved on the pages of the history of the State of Israel. The combination of these two events shows how sport can promote diplomatic relations between two countries, as it happened with Serbia, thanks to the historic game, in which, for the first time in the country's history, an Israeli team won the European Cup. Together with our partners, we will continue to promote the important connection of diaspora Jewry to Israel through sports. I will take this opportunity to wish Maccabi Tel Aviv good luck tonight at the game and that they will continue to keep Israeli sports on the map."
Shimon Mizrahi, Chairman of Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club: "I am happy that the cooperation between Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club, the Center for Jewish Impact and the World Zionist Organization continues. After a large opening event at the VIP Hall of Maccabi at Menora Mivtachim Arena at the beginning of the game season, we have stood united in Milan, Berlin, and now in Belgrade, with more events coming very soon. We all fondly remember the historic European Cup championship of Maccabi 45 years ago, right here in Belgrade. Nevertheless, we consider the visit and activity today as just as important as we witness the alarming challenges the Jewish people is facing in Europe today, and we are proud to have the State of Israel as the home of every Jew wherever he is. We look forward to continuing our activities and strengthen our ties with diaspora Jewry. "
Tova Dorfman, Deputy Chair of the World Zionist Organization: "The sports industry is a platform that can unite, break down barriers between people, reduce stigmas and connect peoples. We are happy to take part in a project that does this in the best way and with partners who are keen to promoting the values of tolerance, preserving the memory of the Holocaust for a better future, and building a bridge with local Jewish communities - such as the wonderful Jewish community of Belgrade. We are excited to take part in the two historical events - marking 30 years of diplomatic relations with Serbia and 45 years since Maccabi Tel Aviv's first European Cup win - events that delighted an entire nation in the past, but their positive impact continues today, and will continue in the future. "