One of the four big Football clubs in Israel (the others are Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Hapoal Tel-Aviv, Maccabi Haifa), and arguably the most popular one. Its colors are black and yellow, and its symbol is the Menorah, the lamp.
A key fact to understanding this club is the fact that for many years sport in Israel was highly politicized, and most clubs had a connection to political movements.
The club started in the 1930's. Beitar was the youth movement of the Jewish right wing Revisionist movement. At that time the British ruled Jerusalem and the besides football practice the club was also a cover for underground activities of the Etzel resistance movement.
After Israel's independence in 1948. Beiter was the club most identified with the Herut party and its leader Menachem Begin. Jerusalem was the most right wing of all Israel's major cities, and the club had a big following. Its municipal rival was Hapoal Jerusalem. Hapoal clubs belonged to the labour union and the Mapai ruling party. Since Herut was constantly in opposition and regarded as outcasts by the establishment, Beitar was under funded and usually weaker than Hapoal.
Beitar always had fanatical and colorful fans which were mostly from eastern descent (Spheradim) and lower incomes. They could be pretty hot headed at times, and games were some times stopped because of rioting.
The turn around for Beitar came in the seventies, when the right wing party, now named 'Likud', gained support and eventually, in 1977, Begin became Prime Minister. Beitar won the cup for the first time in 1976, and in 1987 after many years of frustration, second places, and last minute losses, Beitar won its first National Championship. Meanwhile, Hapoal lost stature and following as Jerusalem became more right wing and the labor union lost clout, and Beitar was firmly established as Jerusalem's number one club.
Beitar has yet to perform well in the European field. In its last attempt in the WAFA cup of 1998/1999 it lost to Glasgow Celtic.
Beitar and the fans
In the nineties, Beitar won three more championships, and became a major factor in Israeli football. Beitar moved from the antique YMCA stadium to the modern Teddy stadium, which houses 21,000 sits, and gained a huge following not only in Jerusalem but all over Israel. Beitar has a hard-core of fans that sit in the upper side of the center eastern aisle known as the 'Kasba' where they sit for hours before the game begins. This group is extremely right wing... on the verge of racism. They receive each Arab player with raised hackles and, when enflamed (like a match taking place after a terrorist attack), they shout racist slogans. They are known as the 'Kometz', that is 'the handful', because every time they do another outrageous thing, like throwing smoke bombs on the field, the Beitar spokesman says:
'this is the doing of just a handful of fans'.
However, up to the present, Beitar never had an Arabic player for fear of the 'Kometz'. Today you can find fans of Beitar all over Israel. The club usually attracts anti-establishment right wingers, and for 'Likud' party politicians it is a home ground. Former Prime Minister Bibi Netanyehu appeared in games before the election. Even though, they are fans who are lefties and even Arab fans. They are attracted by the team`s playing style which is usually very offensive, the fans call it 'Brazilian'.
After many years of mismanagement, in which each year was ended in financial mess, Beitar was a acquired by a group of investors. This group tries to set new standards of management including pay-per-view and also hired a conservative (i.e. defensive) coach. Many fans see it as a betrayal of the club's true populist spirit and an effort to appeal to the elite. However, most of them will forgive if the club wins another championship. If not, they still have a lot of smoke bombs.