A tree grows near Tel Aviv, in ground until recently barren. It's a SPORTS ILLUSTRATED tree, which Associate Editor Gerald Holland planted only weeks ago. If it grows as it ought to grow, it will symbolize what's happening to sport in Israel.
Exactly what is happening Holland tells in next week's issue; and how he comes to tell it is a story in itself. You may recall that more than two years ago Holland accompanied Ron Delany to Ireland to observe how his countrymen welcomed their Olympic champion home (SI, Jan. 21, 1957). Like many an Irish story, this one led to another.
It came six months later when Bernard McDonough, a shovel manufacturer of Parkersburg, West Virginia, inspired to some reflections on the Auld Sod by the account of Delany's reception, invited Holland to return with him for a visit. McDonough had in mind the construction of a shovel factory in Ireland. What Ireland got instead (SI, July 29, 1957) was a big boost to the completion of its first cinder track—the one on which Herb Elliott set the world's record for the mile (Aug. 18, 1958). Irish Sports Promoter Billy Morton wrote Holland: "Your readers can take good credit for all they have done for us."
Fitting as this climax might seem, it was no end to the story—for Holland or SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Last winter a friend suggested that as Holland had already been to Ireland, he might well look now at sports in Israel. Although he failed to follow the logic of this sequence clearly at the time, Holland was far from saying no to such an interesting prospect.
May 17, 1959
Shortly, he was winging his way to the small 11-year-old country at the far end of the Mediterranean. What he found there made everything much clearer: from Prime Minister Ben-Gurion on down, Israel is a country ready, willing and not waiting for sports. While it needs more sports facilities, one that it already has is the Wingate Institute for Physical Education, named for British General Orde Wingate and established to train athletic coaches and instructors. Here, according to the institute's young custom, Holland planted our tree, with guidance from three of the many men now active in promoting sports in Israel.
The rest of the story is Holland's to tell next week. Like one in Ireland before, it might easily lead to another.