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New York to help Jerusalem build new basketball arena

New York Jewish Week
NEW YORK, March 5 (JTA) — Picture this: John Starks shakes free of his defender and sinks a three-pointer at the buzzer. Yitzhak Rabin Stadium erupts as the New York Knicks nip the Jerusalem Saints, 80-77. Rabin Stadium? Jerusalem Saints? Well, if all goes as planned, this scene could be reality some day. So says Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who last month promised to help his friend and colleague Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert build a 16,000-seat indoor arena in Jerusalem — the first such facility in Israel. Flanking Olmert and Giuliani at a City Hall news conference to announce the start of fund-raising efforts for the arena were New Jersey Nets co-owner Jerry Cohen and longtime Washington Bullets owner Abe Pollin. Giuliani said he wants to lend a hand because New York and Jerusalem have a pact to help each other economically and culturally. Bruce Teitelbaum, the mayor’s chief of staff, said the Israelis want Giuliani to lobby the NBA to play one of its five scheduled international exhibition games in Jerusalem in the year 2000. Olmert said he had discussed the possibility with NBA Commissioner David Stern. Olmert said the Nets and Bullets already have accepted his invitation to play in Jerusalem. He said he asked for Giuliani’s help because “the mayor’s influence would be instrumental to the project.” At the news conference, Giuliani also promised the city’s technical support to build the facility. He said the move would solidify Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. “Jerusalem is a city that everyone should have an interest in because everyone in one way or another can trace their roots to Jerusalem,” Giuliani said. When asked what the Israeli team could be named, Olmert suggested the Saints. One observer chimed in with the Sabras. The mayor, ever the New Yorker, said he would not abandon his support of the Knicks. “Even against the Jerusalem Saints, I would still have to root for the Knicks,” Giuliani said.