About Touchdown Israel

American Tackle Football In Israel

Touchdown Israel explores the fast growing sport of American tackle football in Israel. Started in 1988, American Football in Israel (AFI) has grown to over 90 contact and non-contact flag football teams. In 2005, the AFI established the Israeli Football League (IFL), an offshoot devoted to American-style full-contact tackle football. The league is now sponsored by and known as the Kraft Family IFL. In just five years, the IFL has grown from 25 enthusiastic players in Tel Aviv to a thriving league of over 600 players and 10 teams in a nation roughly the size of New Jersey. The rising popularity of this American import enables die-hard armchair Israeli NFL fans the opportunity to try-out for a team, and play before a crowd. Sports fans, looking for a break from the nationalistic soccer frenzy, benefit from the easy accessibility and a family atmosphere of weekly IFL competitions.

In the epicenter of the Middle East conflict, an aggressive new sport plays out at the stadium. Israel’s weekend warriors team up, suit up, don helmets over their kippahs, and charge the field in a season of full-contact American Tackle Football, revealing pieces of themselves and their world along the way. Secular or religious, Israeli-born or not, these Jews, Muslims and Christians are transformed from ordinary citizens into fierce gridiron competitors on a quest for Israel Bowl glory. Providing a unique insight into the incredible religious and cultural diversity that is Israel, the filmmaker intends to profile players, teams, coaches, officials and fans from three teams throughout one playing season as they learn the rules, execute the strategies and bond together.

Touchdown Israel follows players, coaches, and fans from three teams over the course of Season Five. Hailing from diverse ethnic, cultural, religious, social and political backgrounds (The league is 80 percent Israeli, with secular and orthodox Jews playing with and against Israeli Arab, Christian, Thai and Palestinian players), and often new to the sport, players must learn the tactics, and execute the strategies to win the weekly game and rise in the league rankings. The film’s coverage will include pre-season, regular season and playoffs, culminating in Israel Bowl V.

Touchdown Israel Premiers at the SF Jewish Film Festival

Touchdown Israel – Tackle Football in the Holyland has just been selected to screen at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF). This is quite an honor, considering the the SFJFF is the oldest and largest Jewish film festival in the world with over 34,000 annual visitors. Please go their site for more information on screening dates and times: San Francisco Jewish Film Festival Program

 Flash Quiz?

Flash quiz: name a Jewish pro football player. Stumped? No wonder, there have been precious few. So Israel is the last place you would expect the corn-fed, Friday Night Lights tradition of American football to catch on. But don’t tell that to the passionate players and coaches in the 11-team Israel Football League, who play for nothing but pride and have had to endure years of matches played on woefully short soccer fields, under bad lighting, with no locker rooms, in front of an indifferent public. Touchdown Israel is a surprising look at how the gridiron sport has found an unlikely toehold in the Holy Land. Initially imported in the 1990s by American-born Israelis who deeply missed the scrimmages of their youth, American football in Israel has had to counter not only the vastly more popular appeal of soccer and basketball, but legions of Jewish mothers worried about their grown sons’ injuries. As league macher Steve Leibowitz claims, “Jewish mothers somehow don’t get it, it’s nice to be bruised.” But the documentary has serious points to make as well, as it examines the Jewish-Arab camaraderie (and occasional tensions) within the multiethnic lineup of the Tel Aviv–Jaffa Sabres, as well as the controversial “bad boy” profile of the Judean Rebels, a team composed largely of West Bank settlers. Some rivalries go deeper than sports. -Peter L. Stein