a different side of Israel

All of England Loves Israel

Yossi Benayoun was not able to play in Saturday Night’s game against Russia; but that didn’t stop the Israeli National Team from pulling off their stunning 2-1 victory over the visiting side at Ramat Gan National Stadium. That wasn’t the only thing that put similes on the faces of both the Israeli team and their fans; the win has now elevated England’s chances to advance in the World Cup qualifying rankings. As a result, Israel and its football team are now very popular to millions of people in the U.K.; so popular in fact that adoring U.K. football fans were waving Israeli fans and singing ‘hava nagila’ in pubs all over the England. And Omer Golan, (pictured) who kicked the winning goal is now as much adored as Yossi, the team captain.

That this great change in British-Israeli relations has occurred in only a month has not been attributed to the efforts of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was chosen to be a special European Union envoy between Israel and the Palestinians. No, not at all; this change has been brought about by sport, namely football. Sports have often resulted in better relations between countries, and in this case sports have turned an increasingly hostile British public into one in which many of whose members outright said they will not only come to visit Israel, but even want to acquire Israeli citizenship as well.

All of this started in October when former Macabbee Haifa coach Avraham Grant became coach for the London based Chelsea football club; a move which many in both Israel and the U.K. said was doomed to failure. Grant’s short tenure at Chelsea has so far been partially responsible for turning that club’s football fortunes around, and improving its overall Premier League standings. Following afterwards was the playing success of Israeli football star Yossi Benayoun who has helped the Liverpool Football Club win several match victories, including a stunning 8-0 win over a hapless Turkish team. And now, Israel’s win over Russia, which gives the British national team a chance to advance into the next round of the World Cup qualifying matches.

The win has done wonders for relations between the two countries; and with the year 2008 promising to be good year for incoming tourism to Israel, there is no doubt that many incoming tour groups will be from the U.K. Previous friendly matches between Israel and both the U.K. and Ireland have resulted in football fans from both countries getting to know each other. And, as many will happily testify, there are plenty of pubs and other public houses in Israel to satisfy any Englishman’s thirst.

If all of this doesn’t make sport the grand equalizer, then what does?


  1. I think that Israel or some one in her behalf, or some independent source, should encourage British football fans to visit Israel, with really attractive sells. They can promote that enterprise through the internet football sites and fliers in the stadiums. The flier should be interesting enough (with pictures, data, recommendations and free-sails vouchers) to take them home and throw than down to the flour.

  2. I agree with Abe, and this goes for other potential visitors as well. Prices at most Israeli hotels and tourist resorts are much too high and as a result, many people go elsewhere. A good example is people going to the Sinai or to Aqaba simply because both places cost less. Why spend $100 or more per night in Eilat when similar accomodations can be obtained in Aqaba (across the bay) for half that amount?

    Many Israelis themselves go to places like Turkey simply because it cost less to go there.

    Hopefully the Israel tourist industry will someday get the message and offer more budget friendly tourist packages.

    People are always looking for

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