By Patrice Worthy
In 1977 basketball became more than just a sport for Israel; it represented the Jewish state’s triumphant position on the world stage.
The documentary “On the Map” follows the Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball team on its run to the 1977 European Cup championship, which restored Israeli hope and pride after the humiliation of the Yom Kippur War in 1973.
When Tal Brody, an American player drafted by the NBA, joined the Maccabi team, it was a game-changer, and other American basketball players followed. Together, the men became a force to be reckoned with on the court.
Written and directed by Dani Menkin, the story is set against historical events such as the oppression of Russian Jews and the tragedy at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. The stakes were high, and for Israel every game was slaying a Goliath.
You don’t have to be a basketball fan to be enthralled in the drama of this documentary. The genius of the film is that Menkin uses the journey of the Maccabi team to represent the story of the Jewish people, complete with defeat, struggle, glory, and, ultimately, triumph in the face of hate.
The parallels Menkin draws between the Maccabi team and the Jewish nation are fascinating and unexpected. By the end of “On the Map,” viewers are cheering for Israel, on and off the court. The film is the quintessential underdog story of how a small, upstart nation used a basketball court to make a name for itself on the world stage.