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From the Hills of Jerusalem, Let Freedom Swing

Let me tell you why the terrorists are going to lose.

At the end of June, I left Jerusalem and drove past Tel Aviv to the Baptist Village, where I watched the second game of the Israel Baseball League’s inaugural season. There were players from the Dominican Republic, Australia, Israel and America, good Jewish boys whose mothers were suddenly proud of their sons’ non-medical careers. One of the players was a friend of mine from Canada who became a professional ballplayer for the first time at the age of 31 — after moving to Israel.

Granted, it’s not the majors. It’s not even AA. But there we were, eating hotdogs, trying to teach Israelis the wave and watching baseball.

Then, on the 4th of July — the day the founding fathers of the United States brought to life the last great hope for mankind’s establishment of fair government free of tyranny — I played football.

I played football at Kraft Family Stadium in Jerusalem — as in Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots. On the 4th of July.

As a kid growing up in D.C., I loved the Washington Redskins (still do) and hated the Baltimore Orioles (less so, now that D.C. has a team). I couldn’t tell you who plays for the Nationals, but I wear the hat all over Israel.

I’ll probably take it with me next time I go on reserve duty. Yes, I’ll have my Nationals hat with me while I fulfill my patriotic duty to God and Country.

Up until a few weeks ago, I really missed hating a baseball team and not having real football around (the kicking variety, while fun, simply isn’t the same). But now things are different.

The helmets and pads are being ordered. The season will start in a few months. We’re training. And I can watch baseball games on TV, with Hebrew announcers.

And that’s how I know the terrorists will lose.

America is about more than everything it’s about. The United States and its glorious Constitution are about an idea. Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “The preservation of the holy fire [of liberty] is confided to us by the world, and the sparks which will emanate from it will ever serve to rekindle it in other quarters of the globe.” I think he would have enjoyed watching baseball in the Baptist Village just north of Tel Aviv.

America is about the idea that man can be free from tyranny. America is about hope for tomorrow, hope that your children will have a better life.

Sure, most parents everywhere in the world probably share this hope, but America’s Constitution was written with the ability to be molded as the years passed. Those who wrote it knew that the nation would not survive if the document could not adjust.

And now in Israel, where we have been battling terrorism for years, where young boys just out of high school strap on army boots to protect their homes — now in this young and prospering land of freedom, we have the two games that were born of the leader of the free world.

As I see the excitement and the hard work being put into these games, I remember what my Walt Whitman High School football coach told me at the beginning of two-a-day practices: “Other than the army, this is the hardest thing you’ll ever do.” He was right — the army was harder.

At the end of my last high school season, as the smell of Friday-night grass filled our noses and the cadence of the band’s drums filled our ears, our coach told us: “For all you seniors this will be your last game. You will never play another game of football again. So go out there and give it everything you got.”

In other words, stand up. Don’t ever give up. This is your last great chance to be part of this beautiful enterprise. This is it.

Well, coach, I can happily say that you were wrong. Now, at age 30, I’m going to play again, God willing. (If Thomas Jefferson can talk about Him, so can I — and I will.)

I’ll keep believing, because that’s what Americans and Israelis do. I’ll keep playing, because that’s what Americans and Israelis do. I’ll keep serving, because that’s what Americans and Israelis do.

And I will cherish every moment that I watch one man go up to bat in Israel. I will wait for someone to catch that pass in mid-air, right in front of me. And I’ll love being part of that team.

Greg Tepper is a reserve soldier in the Israeli military and member of Jerusalem’s first tackle football team.

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