Issy Kramer

Issy Kramer was an attorney and later the mayor of Boksburg during 1973/74, as well as the president of the South african Amateur Swimming Union at its end in 1991. He emigrated to Isreal where he was also involved with water polo administration.

with SAASU members

Issy Kramer

I started my serious water polo interest when at Boksburg High School. I captained the school team and also the Eastern Transvaal Junior team. I then played for Boksburg Junior and Senior water polo teams in the North-Eastern Transvaal League after which I graduated, in between refereeing and playing, to become president of the Eastern Transvaal Amateur Swimming Association (1959 -1976), acted as chairman of the SA Water Polo Board of Control and Selection Committee and thereafter, became president of the South African Swimming Union from 1979 until 1991 when I emigrated to Israel“

I also served as the Union’s representative on the Olympic Committee for approximately 20 years, serving on the executive and also as vice-president of NOCSA culminating in representing South Africa in Lausanne when we were re-admitted to the International Olympic Committee.“ During this period I managed the South African team overseas on three occasions and also became the vice-president of the SA Football Association, from which I retired in 1980 to concentrate on swimming, water polo, synchro and diving. After my arrival in Israel, I was asked to serve as treasurer of the Israeli Water Polo Federation 1993-’96 and then as president 1996-2000during which time I was appointed as a member of the Aquatic League European (LEN) Water Polo Technical Committee on which I have served since 1998.”

 The Inter-provincial Water Polo tournament held annually in South Africa, was named after Issy Kramer.

Eks-raadslid nou ’n Israeli

Die Beeld 31 Maart 2006 Sarie van Niekerk
Boksburg. – Die beginjare in Israel nadat hulle uit Boksburg daarheen verhuis het, was bitter moeilik. Hulle kon nie die taal praat nie. Hy het as prokureur afgetree in Suid-Afrika en politiek in Israel was maar deurmekaar.
Dit is hoe mnr. Issy Kramer, voormalige raadslid van die destydse stadsraad van Boksburg en waarskynlik die raadslid met die langste diens, die afgelope naweek vertel het op die vooraand van sy vertrek na Israel nadat hy, nou ’n lid van die Israelse balie, op ’n sakebesoek aan Boksburg was.
“Na ’nklompie maande was ek erg gefrustreerd. Ek was heeldag onder my vrou se voete en daar is besluit iets moet gedoen word. Ek het my voltyds aan studies gewy, eerstens om die taal aan te leer. Nadat ek dit bemeester het, besluit ek om weer voltyds terug te gaan universiteit toe om sodoende tot die Israelse balie toegelaat te kon word.
“Toe ek die dag tot die balie toegelaat is, was ek die oudste in die klas, selfs ouer as die regter wat die seremonie waargeneem het. Op bykans 60 was ek nogal opsigtelik tussen die jonges. Ek het nogtans die beste in my klas gedoen. Van daar het dinge verander. Vandag is ons gevestig in ons vaderland en lojale Jode,” sê hy.
Intussen het hy sy eie onderneming uit sy huis begin waar hy en sy vrou Fay ongeveer 40 km buite Tel Aviv woon. Hy is intussen ook verkies tot die wêreldbeheerliggaam vir waterpolo en swem. Op 74-jarige ouderdom rits hy steeds die wêreld vol vir die geliefde sport van hom.
Dit was op sy aandrang destyds as raadslid dat die Olimpiese standaard grootte Boksburg-Noord-swembad met dak en al gebou is wat vandag nog aan wêreldstandaarde voldoen.
Dit was egter ’n voorval in die raadsaal, waar hy as Jood die hoon van die destydse KP-raadslede moes verduur, wat die laaste strooihalm was en die gesin feitlik onmiddellik laat besluit het om na Israel te verhuis.
Die bebloede kop van ’n pasgeslagte vark, toegedraai in ’n vlag van Israel, is tydens die etenspouse een aand met ’n raadsvergadering op sy stoel neergesit.
Drie van sy vier kinders woon en werk ook in Israel terwyl een en sy gesin in Ameraka woon. Hulle het nege kleinkinders.
Oor Israel en vrede was sy afskeidswoorde:  “Kom ons kyk wie wen dié week die verkiesing.”

Fishes out of water

A 2007 article:

It's a tough sport and you have to be fit," says Issy Kramer, a lawyer and Honorary President of the Israel Water Polo Association (IWPA). "It combines the skills of swimming, soccer, rugby and wrestling." Such a combination begs an obvious question: Any punching? "Sometimes, but discreetly," Kramer laughs. "If soccer is a gentleman's game played by hooligans, then water polo is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen," he adds, plagiarizing an adage normally attached to rugby. Clearly, the honorary president was speaking tongue-in-cheek: "The people who play water polo are the finest. They exhibit the best values of sportsmanship. What's more," he says proudly, "water polo is entrenched with tradition. It has been part of the Summer Olympics since the second games in 1900, and is one of the most exciting sporting events in the Maccabiah." Water polo is very much a minority sport in Israel, attracting minimal media attention and scant funding. The country's top league comprises five teams: Tivon, Tel Aviv University (TAU), Petah Tikva, Kibbutz Givat Haim and the Gush Zvulun kibbutz bloc. There is also a second league comprising six teams, an under-18 league also with six teams, under-16 and under-14 divisions with eight teams apiece, and a women's league with four teams. The word "polo" is something of a misnomer. The sport has nothing to do with snooty Englishmen prancing around on their "high horses." It may be apocryphal, but some suggest that the name originated from an earlier form of the game in which players rode on barrels painted like horses. Whatever the precise origins, the game is a team water sport where each team consists of six "field" players and one goalkeeper. The objective of the game resembles that of soccer - hence its earliest name "football-in-the-water" - to score as many goals as possible. If water polo is tough to play, it's even tougher on the sport to survive in an environment short of facilities and public support. According to Kramer, most of the European water polo teams that dominate the sport today enjoy substantial state and corporate support. "Not in Israel, where the sport is not part of the culture and basketball and soccer are king." Israel does not have many public pools, and the ones that are available are expensive to use. "With soccer, rugby, baseball, cricket, basketball or tennis, if youngsters want to play or practice they can take a ball and go hit, kick or throw in a quiet street, field or driveway. With water polo there is no alternative to a swimming pool, so we have to use the very few that are available - and that's usually at late hours after the recreational club members are finished. This is an enormous strain on our players, who will probably only start their practice after 9 pm."

So why do people make the effort when there are so many other sports to choose from? "For the pure love of the game," says Kramer, whose romance with water polo began as a youngster in his native South Africa where he participated in most water sports. While injury may have put paid to his performance in the water - "I was slugged in the eye" - it only spurred him on to greater things outside the pool. From refereeing to judging, Kramer would go on to serve as President of the Eastern Transvaal Swimming Association, then President of the South African Swimming Association which oversaw swimming, diving, synchronized swimming and water polo. In 1979 he was elected President of the SA Swimming Union and Vice President of the SA Olympic Committee. Kramer immigrated to Israel in 1991. He was hardly through Ben-Gurion Airport when he was pounced upon by the local water polo leadership, and following a Hebrew ulpan course, recruited onto the IWPA Executive. He was already well known with the sport's local fraternity, having over the years brought many South African teams to Israel and invited and hosted Israeli teams to South Africa. These visits were mostly clandestine. The reasons were obvious: The apartheid South Africa of the 1980s was being increasingly isolated and the first casualties were their sportsmen, who were denied international competition. "While I was totally against the South African government's policies, I nevertheless arranged overseas matches, whether in Europe or Israel. If we didn't, our sport would have crumbled and our players - mostly youngsters with tremendous talent - would have suffered because of policies that they had no control over," he says. He recalls one amusing incident when he brought a swimming team from South Africa to Israel. "It was an international competition and there were no Jews in our team, mostly Afrikaners. I briefed the members of the squad that if asked where they come from, they must answer Southampton, not South Africa. We began hearing comments like "Wow, those guys from the south of England have an unusual accent."

Back in South Africa, Kramer found himself battling in an increasingly hostile environment. Water polo requires immense ball handling skills. Players need to develop the ability to catch and throw the ball with either hand and to catch from any direction. Experienced water polo players can catch and release a pass with a single motion. Such dexterity was required in the political life of Issy Kramer, who apart from practicing law had at one time served as mayor of his hometown of Boksburg and was again standing for the City Council. "My opponent from the ultra-right Conservative Party (CP) was a Dr. van Ryssen, who viciously attacked me in the press. It didn't help him. I trounced him." However that was not the end of the matter. While Kramer won his seat, overall the CP did well, taking over the council. "On the opening day in the new council chamber, the SABC TV network was there to cover the story. The CP victory was big news. The new leader of the council entered the chamber with all the fanfare, brandishing a revolver in one hand and a bible in the other," he recounts. This was a portend of what was to follow. As Kramer approached his seat, a woman member of the council let out a blood-curdling scream, which all South Africa heard. The TV cameras were rolling. Draped over Kramer's seat was the Israeli flag. It was humped in the middle and there was blood oozing from the sides. Kramer lifted up the blue-and-while Star of David, to reveal a grotesquely perched bloody pig's head. Unfazed, the intrepid councilor asked for his seat to be cleaned and sat down. After the puffed-up CP chairman profusely denied involvement, Kramer was then given the floor. "I began slowly with the words, 'I really am enjoying this. This is a wonderful reawakening. I only hope that all Jews in South Africa take note.'" Staring intently at those he thought were the guilty culprits, Kramer continued, "When you behave like this, you unite us. And the more outrageous your behavior, the more united we become and we will bust you. And neither your president's bible nor his revolver will protect you."

The twilight years of the apartheid era drew in without Issy Kramer. He and his wife Fay had immigrated to Israel, settling in Neve Amirim in the Sharon.

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