Guy Harel Bids Farewell

Guy Harel bid farewell to his father: "He was a true Jerusalemite in every fiber of his being"

In a special interview with "Srugim," the former CEO of Hapoel Jerusalem bid farewell to his father, Avi Harel, who was the chairman of the group in the 80s and 90s: "He was a family man in every sense of the word"

Guy Harel (Photo: Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

Five days ago, Avi Harel, the former chairman of Hapoel Jerusalem basketball team in the 80s and 90s, passed away. In a special interview with "Srugim," his son Guy Harel, who was the CEO of the team himself, bid farewell to his father: "He was a true Jerusalemite in every fiber of his being."

"Dad," Guy Harel began, "was born and lived most of his life in Jerusalem, and he was connected to it in every fiber of his being. He was a businessman, which means he worked throughout his life in various fields and places. But there was no place he loved more than Jerusalem; he was very attached to the city, its people and its population. He was a people person and knew many people because of his nature, and the various businesses he worked in."

Harel referred to his father's connection to sports: "Dad was a very big sports fan; initially, he was a soccer fan and less connected to basketball. His greatest passion was for the Israeli national team. I started supporting Hapoel Jerusalem, and he got involved with the team through me." Harel explained that initially, his father contributed to the team that was facing financial difficulties, and later he took on a role within the club, eventually becoming the chairman of the club.

Avi Harel took over the management of the team when it was fluctuating between leagues

During those years, Hapoel Jerusalem was a team that fluctuated between the first and second leagues, with financial gaps and significant debts, while Maccabi Tel Aviv dominated the league. Avi Harel took his role very seriously, and sometimes, as testified by his son, he invested money beyond his economic capacity.

Following the significant investments, Hapoel Jerusalem began to approach the top of the league when it signed prominent players like Adi Gordon and Doron Sheffer in the 1990s. Even after a major departure at the end of 1994, the team didn't decline; it continued its ascent by signing notable players such as Miki Berkovich and Papi Turgeman, along with coach Pini Gershon.

Hapoel Jerusalem fans, a new generation of fans (Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash 90)

"Jerusalem has a problem," Harel testifies, "We always feel underdogs and are afraid to dream big. The change that my father brought to the team was the beginning of the big dreams. It was a process; initially, Hapoel established itself at the top with the help of those big names and created a new generation of fans for itself."

Guy Harel: "My father broadcasted the entire game to me over the public phone"

"At this stage," he recounts, "my father encountered financial difficulties due to the investment in the team and left his position, but he certainly didn't leave the team. He transitioned from being the chairman to a dedicated fan who supported the team everywhere in the world. One of the strongest experiences," Harel recalls, "was the State Cup final that Hapoel won. I was in the United States, and my father broadcasted the entire game from the field to a public phone. I stood in the middle of the Sixth Avenue in Manhattan, listening to it."

Ten years ago, Guy Harel was appointed himself as the CEO of the team, a position he left last year. "It was a closing of a circle for my father," he describes, "it was an incredible experience for both of us, he relived his role."

Hapoel Jerusalem players celebrate advancing to the Final Four of the Champions League last season (Photo: Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash 90)

In 1996, Hapoel Jerusalem won its first State Cup, and in 2004, it won the European Cup – the ULEB Cup. The pinnacle of aspirations came in 2015 when Hapoel secured its first championship. "For my father, it was an experience beyond all his dreams," Guy recounts, "to be number one, to be a champion, and all this while I am connected to the club, it was a profoundly uplifting moment for him, especially when he was there with the entire family."

Above all, Avi Harel was a family man

Avi Harel was also deeply connected to the soccer team of the club. After it encountered difficulties due to ownership disputes, and part of its fans formed a new team called Hapoel Katamon, Avi Harel was a member of both teams and held shares in the original club. After Hapoel Jerusalem disbanded, Katamon became Hapoel Jerusalem, and two years ago, it returned to the top league, finishing fifth in the league last year.

Despite his great love for the team, Avi Harel was above all a family man. "In his later years," Guy recounts, "he dedicated all his time and effort to his family. He was a family man in every sense. Dad was also a people person; he loved being in the company of others, and people enjoyed being around him. He would wander around and meet people, listen to stories, and share his own."

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