History with Chuck: Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu, once a Cheltenham soccer player, now an Israeli Prime Minister

The photo above from the 1967 El Delator yearbook shows current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu playing soccer for Cheltenham High School.

Netanyahu graduated fourth in his class and was a National Letter of Commendation winner. In addition to the soccer team, he was a member of the chess club and the debate team.

He and his family belonged to reform Congregation Temple Judea on North Broad Street in Philadelphia. Netanyahu, a Tel Aviv native, was unable to attend the June 1967 graduation ceremony due to enlisting in the Israeli Defense Forces during the Six-Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

Netanyahu has been serving as the prime minister of Israel since December 2022, having previously held the office from 1996 to 1999 and again from 2009 to 2021.

In 2015, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that 1973 graduates sent Netanyahu his class yearbook. The article also mentions our very own local historian Chuck Langerman:

In April, 1973 classmates David Gorewitz, Sam Katz, Bonnie Mason and Chuck Langerman collaborated via an active class Facebook site. While none of the four knew Netanyahu personally, the alumni of the Montgomery County high school sent him a note on behalf of their class congratulating him on winning a fourth term.

He played left wing for the soccer team and Langerman joked, “That was the exact opposite of his political views.”

Via Cheltenham Yearbook: Chess Club

From The Jewish Exponents’ 2015 article:

To most of us who knew him back in the mid-1960s in Cheltenham, he wasn’t Bibi. Just Ben. Different in many ways from the average suburban kid who seldom paid attention to the world around him. A young man with a purpose, disinterested in the cliques and social mentality that preoccupied many of his schoolmates.

Now that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has just won a fourth term in office, it would be silly to think any of us could have predicted this tall, good-looking boy with the thick accent would grow up to become the leader of his country. Yet, if you looked hard enough, there were signs during his four years in the region that Netanyahu was destined for something big.

From Wikipedia‘s entry on Netanyahu :

Between 1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967, his family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, while father Benzion Netanyahu taught at Dropsie College. … He and his brother Yonatan grew dissatisfied with a perceived superficial way of life they encountered in the area, including the prevalent youth counterculture movement, and the liberal sensibilities of the Reform synagogue, Temple Judea of Philadelphia, that the family attended.

For all the latest news, follow us on Facebook or sign up for Glenside Local’s “Daily Buzz” newsletter here.

Yearbook photo and information partially provided by Chuck Langerman, local historian