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Soccer Victory Sets Jerusalem Agog

Jerusalemites went wild with joy last night and were still celebrating at dawn today the victory of their Betar soccer team over the Tel Aviv Maccabis. The Jerusalem footballers beat the Tel Aviveans 2-1 before a capacity crowd of 50,000 in the Ramat Gan Stadium yesterday to bring the National Soccer Championship Cup to the capital for the first time since Israel’s independence.

The scenes here rivalled those after the 1967 Six-Day War victory when Jerusalem was united. The happiness that welled over seemed greater than in 1948 when the first convoy of water tankers broke through Arab siege lines to relieve a thirsty populace.

Jerusalem, of course, had been thirsting for a soccer victory for years. When it finally occurred, thousands massed downtown to welcome the long motorcade bearing the Betar heroes and their euphoric fans home. Horns tooted in unison and the air was permeated with exhaust fumes, steam from overheated engines and the odor of burning rubber as drivers braked constantly to avoid pile-up collisions. When the bus-carrying the team entered the city, its windows were smashed–the violence of love rather than love of violence–and the players were almost strangled by bear hugs. The police had to rescue them from their admirers.

This morning, cars were still roving the streets, horns hooting a message of triumph that might almost have been heard in Tel Aviv. Schools were open but classrooms were empty for students were still in the throes of celebration. “It was like Flatbush in 1955,” remarked an American immigrant, a reference to the Brooklyn Dodgers’ first World Series victory over their arch foe, the New York Yankees. An Israeli companion expressed a more philosophical view. “Thank God we won. What would Jerusalem have looked like today if Betar lost?” he asked.

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