The first reference that was found regarding Hapoel Jerusalem is in the forth Hapoel convention in 1935. It was the first convention that held a basketball tournament and it included 4 teams (Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv, Yehuda and Shomron). Jerusalem won the tournament after beating Yehuda in the final 8:4. Four years later the team participated also in the first Hapoel championship.
The real story of the club begins in 1943 in the sport hall in the Histadrut Street. Since that there were no organized league, the team took part mostly in different tournaments and friendly games. The training were held in the small hall in the Histadrut Street and the players met once or twice a week, sometime under coach Zeev Levendel and sometimes with no coach at all. The team's manager back then was Efraim Giller, a watchmaker from Jaffa Street.
The biggest star of Hapoel Jerusalem before the establishment of Israel was Yehoshua Weisman which played with the first team of Israel at the democratic festival in Prague in 1947. He died a year later in the War of Independence on the way to Atarot. Other known players at that time were Igal Ofri, Naaman (Lolik) Kibert, Amiram Sunrov and the brothers Yudke and Yoske Nahari. Another player was Yechiel Kalev that died with the Convoy of 35 on their way to Gush Etzion on January 1948.
In the War of Independence the team stopped its activity but it was renewed right after the end of the war. This time the team had their trainings in the YMCA hall. Two players joined the team – the brothers Mark and Sami Mamran which arrived to Israel as a part of an immigration of Basketball players from Egypt. At the beginning of the Fifties the coach was Ari Zamri, which later on became a sports journalist. In the middle of the decade the team upgraded its conditions and it moved to train and play at the hall in Strauss Street which was the only roofed hall in the country. Despite the high standard hall, Hapoel Jerusalem was not a part of the 8 teams (4 from Hapoel association and 4 from Maccabi association) that were in the first division that was established in 1953. In that year the team's roster included players such as Danny Milin, Mark Mamran, Arie Cohen, Yehuda Nahari, Israel Ben Israel, Rami Chota, Gideon Weinrab, Eitan Knaani, Eli Steinberg and Moshe Kravitzki.
In 1955 founded the first official league in Israel and although Hapoel didn't take part in 1953 league, they participated in this league. The first season was not one to remember. Hapoel Jerusalem finished the league in the last place with only one win in 22 games (That single win was on Maccabi North Tel-Aviv 77:50, one game before the end of the season). The team relegated and made the comeback in 1958. This year was also quite hard and the team finished the league in the 10th place with 5 wins on Hapoel Ashdot, Yaakov, Hapoel Bet Alpha, Maccabi Petach Tiqva and a double win on Maccabi Haifa and finaaly the team survived thanks to points difference.
The sixties were much better for Jerusalem, mainly because the team managed to win most of their home games. The hall in Strauss Street was the only roofed hall in the country and the team had hard times in the away games at the opened fields. The home games were a totally different story – about 500 people filled every spot in the small hall every Friday night and supported the team that won some of the best teams in that time – Hapoel and Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Givat Brener and Hapoel Haifa.
David Kaminsky was the undisputed leader of the team between 1958 and 1963. In a special survey was made in 1990 among the top basketball figures in the city, he was chosen as the best player of all time. In the season of 1960-1961 Kaminsky led Hapoel Jerusalem to the 4th place in the league with a total of 12 wins and 10 loses. The team failed to do the same in the year after and finished only in the 8th place. The season of 1962-1963 was the end of Kaminsky's way in Jerusalem however it was the start of a new star – Israel Berlinsky (Amir). At the beginning of the season the team added two American players – Paris and Sukenik which were a couple of students that came to a continuing education program in the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and were in fact the first foreign players in the history of the team. In the week of the derby game against Maccabi Jerusalem they returned to the U.S and furthermore, Kaminsky got angry on a board member and threw a plate full of food at him. Naturally, after this incident Kaminsky was suspended and never came back to the team. All of a sudden, the team was left without 3 key players; however that fact opened the way for the new star of the team – Israel Berlinsky, which filled the spot that Kaminsky left with great success.
A year later, Kaminsky coached Maccabi Jerusalem which relegated in the same season. Then he joined Hapoel Tel-Aviv and won 3 championship titles. Without Kaminsky but with Berlinsky and Yaakov Namer on the starting line-up, Hapoel Jerusalem opened the 1963-1964 season with 6 consecutive wins however failed to keep up and finally finished the season in the 7th place. A unique anecdote from that season is mentioned in the report of the Journalist H. Eitan in the "Sports News" after the team lost in Givat Haim 84-65: "Those enthusiast spectators who were in this game will not forget the dramatic finish. Young Manbar got the ball on the free throw line and made a good shot one second from full time" That "young Manbar" will have an important role later on in the history of Hapoel Jerusalem…
In the summer before the 1964-1965 season 3 players left the team: Moshe Telem finished his studying in Jerusalem and moved to Hapoel Ramat Gan, Yaakov Namer went to the U.S to a continuing education program in physical education and Moshe Baruch went to England for a continuing education program in textile. Stuart Paris returned to Jerusalem in order to get the beautiful local girl Naomi Ziv-Or. After he failed to do so, he left again and this time for good. Without those players the team finished in the 9th place but managed to beat the strong Maccabi Tel-Aviv with Cohen-Minz, Hofman and Avidan 63-60.
The following seasons Hapoel was no more than a mid-table team. In 1967 coach Arinka Cohen was replaced by Aharon Kaplan. Kaplan wanted the team to train in an opened fields in order to get use to win an away games but the team kept on winning their home games and lose their away games. The team's start at that time were Israel Amir (Berlinsky), Yoel Steinberg and Itzik Noyman (Along with Doron Shefa they were the top four leading scorers o Jerusalem at all time).
In the season of 1968-1969 Hapoel was in the bottom of the table and coach Amos Tuval was replaced by Mordechay Tanuri. Coach Tanuri regained confidence to the team which survived the relegation just before the end of the season (The team finished 9th out of 13 teams). This season included an unfortunate tragedy after Arinka Cohen which was a player and a coach in the team for many years, died in a car accident at the age of 38.
The following season was even harder. The team was based mostly on soldiers and students, a fact that made it hard to maintain an ordinary training routine. After things got worse, Coach Aharon Kaplan resigned and for the rest of season the team was managed by coach Shimon ("Chinga") Shelach. The team struggled till the last game but a dramatic loss in Bet-Alpha (90:94 lead the team to relegation after 9 consecutive seasons in division 1.
The seventies were years of ups and downs for Hapoel. It started with two years in division 2, continued with the best record at that time (third place in division 1), another relegation and return to the division 1 for a single season. At the early 70's in division 2 there was a new alternative for the historical rivalry with Maccabi Jerusalem – it was no other than Beitar Jerusalem. In 1971 one of the most famous players in Beitar was no other than David Kaminsky which served as player and a coach at the same time. In the big derby match in the Matzleva Valley, 5,000 spectators saw Kaminsky leading Beitar for a crucial win and advancing to division 1. Hapoel learned their lesson and regained Kaminsky back to the team as a coach- player. This move proved to be right after Hapoel returned to division 1 in that season.
In the season of 1972-1973 Kaminsky moved back to Beitar and led the team to the cup final along with Jack Eisner. Hapoel on the other hand, signed a young coach named Ralph Klein who led the team to the 3rd place in division 1 with a total of 14 wins and 8 loses. The few players that survived the 1970 relegation roster were Yoel Steinberg, Eli Illuz and Zion Levy however the new line up was based on the new foreign players from the U.S – Lee Trass, Allan Friedman, Jerry Fisher and Mike Lin. Following the great season, Hapoel had gained a place in the Corach Cup but the Yum Kippur War forced the team to give up the participation in this tournament.
Once again Hapoel spent two seasons in division 2 under Coach Alex Shapira and made a single appearance in division 1 in 1979-1980. However, the teams finished last and returned to division 2. Even the great shooter Candle "Tiny" Finder couldn't help the team getting more than 3 wins in total. Other players in that season were Adi Ben-Ari and Yoram Harush. In that season a young player named Doron Shefa made his debut at the age of 18.
The years1981-1986 were extremely hard for the team who got stuck in division 2 for six years in a row, despite the fact that under Coach Yehoshua Rosin, Hapoel finished at the top of the table. It was the fact that neither relegations nor advances were possible. The only good thing back then was the building of what should become the current home for the team- the sports hall in Malcha that replaced the old hall in Strauss Street. The second half of the decade was a time for the team to settle in division 1 and becoming an important factor in the Israeli basketball.
In 1986 Hapoel advanced one more time to division 1 under Coach Simi Riger. The team had a rough start and Riger was replaced for Rani Kahana. A dramatic away win against Hapoel Gvat right before the last round left the team in the league. The following season (1987-1988) was much like the previous. This time it was Simi Riger who replaced Rani Kahana in the middle of the season and the crucial win that kept Hapoel in the league was against Beitar Tel-Aviv, 5 games before the end of the season. That was the first season of Erez Hazan in the team, along with Menachem Atlas and Chris Harrison.
Before the 1988-1989 season, a few changes were made in the team. For the first time in the history of the club, a foreign coach was signed – Faruk Kulanovich from Yugoslavia. In addition Hapoel regained the player that will later on become the no.1 scorer of all time – Doron Shefa (after playing for Hapoel Afula and Maccabi Haifa). In addition to Shefa, Hapoel added Mike Carter (known as "the crazy") and two more American players – Garry Graham and David Blackwell. These additions helped Hapoel to take place in the middle of the table and for the first time in years, to avoid any danger of relegation.
The nineties were the golden era for Hapoel Jerusalem. The early years were not so good however the season of 1990-1991 brought a change after Coach Kulanovich was replaced for young Yoram Harush who got the job after Hapoel suffered a big defeat at the Galil by 54 points (Harush was offered the job by Chirman Ami Rozen next morning). Since then, the team went through a drastic change and with the help of Shefa, Hazan, Blackwell, Amir (Muki) Motapchich, David Blatt, Greg Collins and Pini Levy, Hapoel finished in the 4th place and for the first time found herself plating in the upper playoff.
In the following season Hapoel started with Coach Gadi Keidar but he was replaced in the middle of the season by Yoram Harush. The team finished the first round at the bottom of the table, but in the second round Hapoel lost only one game (out of 11 games) and managed to finish in the 5th place. The leading player in that year was the new point guard, Adi Gordon. In the summer of 1992 Coach Zvika Sherf joined the team in addition to a new American forward Norris Coleman who joined the trio Gordon-Shefa-Hazan. However, the team was still unstable. In the middle of the season Sherf left to Greece and once again, Yoram Harush was called back to the rescue and Hapoel managed to advance to the upper playoff, thanks to Gordon, Shefa, Hazan, Danny Got, Coleman, Toni Masop and Haoward Lassof.
Later on, in a cup game against Hapoel Tel-Aviv, Papi Turgeman got injured after an incident with Meir Tapiro who became one of the most hated players in Malcha back then. The injury ended Papi's season and the team's hopes of getting back to the playoffs. Finally they finished in the 7th place and reached the semi final in the Israeli cup.
Keidar managed to give Hapoel another title after beating Maccabi in the cup final for the second time 89:82 while Adi Gordon scored 32 points. Furthermore, the team made it through the quarter final of the cup winners cup until they lost to Hiraklis Thessaloniki. The team finished the season in the 3rd place and played in the playoff final. After Manbar was investigated because of his involvement in selling weapons to Iran, he naturally stopped supporting the team.
The fact that Hapoel made it to the quarter finals in the cup winners cup gave Israel the option to add one more team to the Euroleague. Therefore, Hapoel got the chance to play among all the big teams in Europe in the season of 1997-1998. Hapoel signed new foreign players – the Serbian center Radisav Curcic and the power forward Kenny Williams. Both of them showed great performances but the team had hard times competing in both domestic league and the Euroleague. Adi Gordon was not at his best shape and even the change of Gadi Keidar with Coach Efy Birenbaum from Maccabi Ramat-Gan didn't do any good for the team. Hapoel won only two games out of 16 in the Euroleague and finished 4th in the Israeli league. The worst of all though, was the elimination in the Israeli cup quarter finals by Hapoel Tel-Aviv. However, that season set as a preparation for the following one, that considerd as one of the best seasons in the club's history. The new Bossman rule enabled Hapoel to bring one more forign player. Birenbaum decided to bring someone that is well known in Israel – Derek Hamilton who returned from an injury for a great personal season. It seemed like Hapoel got her best starting line-up ever with players like Waldman, Papi, Hamilton, Williams and Curcic that all together were considered as perfect in Israeli team terms. The only problem the team had was the bench which included Eli Balul, Doron Shefa, Mark Carver and several young players such as Erez Katz and Erez Zeichick. Hapoel dominated the league and finished in the 1st place for the first time in history, losing only twice to Maccabi Tel-Aviv. The team had to handle a serious injury of H. Waldman that left Hapoel with young Erez Katz as the opening point gourd. In the cup final Hapoel lost to Maccabi Tel-Aviv 67:69. The playoff finals series was meant to be the most interesting ever. However, Maccabi pulled a 3-1 victory and gained their championship title. In Europe, Hapoel got knocked out in the eighth final after losing to the Spanish side Juventud Badalona.
The 1999-2000 season opened with Efy Birenbaum still on the line. However, several loses ended his work for the club. Several foreign players went in and out from the club in that season – Misha Motavedic, Gilic, Arapovich and the American Bossman player Michal Coleman. In addition the team had to get by without Derek Hamilton who got injured twice, each time for a long period of time.
The new coach was Zvika Sherf but even he couldn't improve the team's performance. Although Hapoel made it to the cup final again, they lost once again to Maccabi Tel-Aviv. In the league, Hapoel got knocked out after losing to Raanana in the quarter finals of the playoff.
The season of 2000-2001 was for no doubt an unforgettable one. Zvika Sherf had one of the largest budgets seen in Israel except Maccabi Tel-Aviv. He made some serious changes in the team's roster and replaced all of the foreign players with several known American players: Tony Dorsi, James Blackwell, Kevin Rankin and Kivo Stewart. In addition he added some local players such as Meir Tapiro and Barak Peleg and brought the giant Romanian Constantin Popa. However, the team didn't perform as expected. Blackwell and Rankin were replaced for Haywood Workman and Kenny Williams but that didn't do any good also as the team lost too many games in the league and in the European cup and Coach Sherf found himself once again leaving the team in the middle of the season. Yoram Harush came once more to the rescue and immediately replaced Kivo Stewart with the magnificent Roger Haggins. Finally, the team recovered and made it to the cup final (lost after a close game) and to the playoff's final (lost 3-0 to Maccabi Tel-Aviv).
The season of 2001-2002 opened with low expectations and low budget. The roster included Erez Katz, Barak Peleg and Meir Tapiro that stayed from the season before and the new foreign players Lemont Jones and Dimitrious Alexander that came from Hapoel Galil Elyon, the Croatian Sinisa Kalichevic and several young players from the Israel's national youth team – Ori Itzhaki, Moshe Mizrahi, Itzik Ochanun and Shahar Gordon. This season was quite solid. It was the first time in years that the team ended the season with the same coach and roster that started it. Hapoel made an history by reaching the semi final in the Saporta Cup after beating Rytas Vilna 75:65 in Lithuania. As usual, Hapoel reached the Israeli cup final and lost in the playoff's semi final to Maccabi Ramat Gan.
The season of 2002-2003 started with a statement of the new head coach Erez Edelstein on how he came to Jerusalem to stop the never ending domination of Maccabi Tel-Aviv. Itzhaki, Ochanun and Peleg left the team that didn't sign any new Israeli players but preferred to focus on new foreign players that weren't in such a hurry to arrive to the city following an escalation it the political situation in Israel. Jerald Brown and John Jerom were the only ones who arrived to Israel in that summer and the team's roster was complete only after the season started. Hapoel had a slow start and Edelstein decided to resign his job. Gadi Keidar replaced him and signed the Lithuanian center Andreas Jorkunas and just when the team had started to recover, a series of unfortunate events (Katz injured, Jerom retired and Brown suddenly left because of the war in Iraq) ended the team's hopes in that season and for the first time in years Hapoel didn't reach to the playoffs. Even in the Israeli cup Hapoel was eliminated in the quarter final by Givat Shmuel. Other players that played in that season were Brian Bracey, Steven Howard, Tory Brags and Ryan Lorthridge.
In the summer of 2003, Sharon Druker was appointed to be the new head coach and Avner Yeor was his assistant. Druker brought to the team the Nigerian Tongy Awajoby, Ido Kozikaro, Doron Sheffer and Will Solomon, one of the best players that ever played in Israel. Although this impressing line-up, Hapoel had trouble finding a good small forward and until January the team had replaced 3 players in that position – Johnny Taylor, Bill Edwards and Erik Washington. In January arrived Kelly McCarthy from Maccabi Rishon LeZion and finally Hapoel found the small forward they wished for. Although the team had a slow start in the Israeli league, the ULEB Cup was a completely different story and it was clear right from the start that the team had a great potential making it till the end. April 13th was one of the most unforgettable days in the history of the club. Hapoel faced Spanish legends Real Madrid in the ULEB Cup final that took place in Charleroi, Belgium. Hapoel controlled the game right from the start and finally won 83:72. This was an historical European title for the club that surprisingly failed to reach the domestic playoff and got defeated once again by Maccabi Te-Aviv in the cup final.
The season of 2004-2005 started with high expectations. Kimany Friend was the new signing from Partizan Belgrade along with other foreign players such as Folding, Trimingham and William Avery that played in Hapoel Tel-Aviv. The Israeli players were Doron Sheffer, Guy Cantor, Raviv Limonad, Matan Naor and Ido Kozikaro. Hapoel were drawn into an easy group in the ULEB Cup but failed to go through the next round. In the Israeli Premier League the team started quite well with 5 consecutive wins that unfortunately had no continuation as Hapoel lost several games in the league that dragged her to the middle of the table. Hapoel finally finished 4th and played against Hapoel Tel-Aviv in the playoffs. This time the reds from Tel-Aviv had the upper hand and won 1-3.
The season of 2005-2006 started with resigning the coach Erez Edelstein that immediately signed several foreign players such as Mario Austin, Horace Jenkins, Roger Mayson and Tamar Slay. Meir Tapiro returned as well and became the senior Israeli player in the team. Hapoel was drawn into a tough group in the ULEB Cup and managed to qualify to the next round from the second place after beating some big names such as Lotomattica Roma, Red Star Belgrade and Dinamo Moscow. Finally, Hapoel met the Russians one more time in the semi-final and lost. In the Israeli cup the team had won all of their games easily until the final in which they lost to Maccabi Tel-Aviv 91:96. In the Israeli Premier League Hapoel finished with a record of 23-7. For the first time in history the identity of the champions was to be determined in a final four in Nokia Arena. Hapoel met Maccabi Rishon LeZion in the semi-final and won by a single point at the buzzer 66:65. In the final there Hapoel suffered a hard defeat to Maccabi Tel-Aviv 66:96.
The season of 2006-2007 started with a surprising move of Hapoel's board that signed the young coach Dan Shamir who started his coaching career as an assistant in Jerusalem and spent the last 3 years as assistant coach in Maccabi Tel-Aviv. It was a hard start for the young coach as the team lost several games at the beginning of the season including a defeat at Naharia. The turning point was right after the winter break and the replacement of Tamar Slay with Terence Morris. Hapoel wa in great winning form and even won the Israeli cup after beating Bney Hasharon. In the ULEB Cup Hapoel was eliminated in the quarter final by the Polish side Zeleznik. After this elimination Hapoel put all efforts in winning the championship title and got more close than ever after leading throughout most of the final game against Maccabi Tel-Aviv. However, an offensive rebound of Jaimie Arnold (who played for Maccabi back then) and a winning shot just 2 seconds from the end gave the win and the title to Maccabi and left thousands of disappointed Hapoel fans.
First league game
4/3/55 losing against Beitar Tel-Aviv (away) 51:70
Top scorers: Milin 20, Cnaani 12, Arie Cohen 8, Steinberg 6, Weinrab 4, Lar 1.
First league win
Top scorers: Milin 19, Arie Cohen 17, Liptsin 16, Chuta 12, Nardi 11, S.Cohen 2.
First away win
1958 against Hapoel Bet Alpha
Top scorer: Kaminsky 12 pts.
First derby win
29/1/1959 against Maccabi Jerusalem 73:61 (30:25)
Hapoel's Top scorers: Liptsin 15, Weinrab 13, Kaminsky 12, Telem 12
Maccabi's top scorers: Hoffman 20, Tawill 15.
First win against Maccabi Tel-Aviv
12/3/1965, home game 63:60
Top scorers: Amir 22, Budin 14, Noyman 8, Y. Steinberg 7, Kaminer 6, Lar 6.
Trophy Case (domestic)
Israeli cup winners – 1996, 1997, 2007, 2008
First place in the table (regular season) – 1998/1999
Trophy Case (Europe)
ULEB Cup Winners – 2004
Saporta Cup semi-finalists – 2001/2002
ULEB Cup semi-finalists 2005/2006
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