Like baseball in America, the sport of Matkot happens in Israel every Spring (and Summer, Fall and even Winter, for that matter). You just can’t go the beach in Tel Aviv, Netanya, Herzelia, Haifa, Ashdod or Ashkelon without seeing people hitting a small rubber ball back and forth to each other with a large wooden paddle that resembles a piece of plywood sandwiched between two pieces of rubber or other material. And the characteristic “poing poing” of the paddles can be heard so much that most beaches require these players to square off on a beach section set off just for them.
Often said to be Israel’s “unofficial national sport” Matkot comes from the words “Makah” in Hebrew or “madka” in Arabic, both words meaning a knock or blow. The sport’s origins seem to come from back in the 1930’s when people were first seen batting a small ball back and forth on the Tel Aviv beachfront. Probably, it was because things were a bit more laid-back in those days, and there simply weren’t very many tennis or squash courts available. So, one had to do what one had to do – and that was to improvise.
Since those simpler times, the sport has spread to other countries as well – especially to those that also have good beach fronts to play on, including those southern islands like Koh Samui in Thailand, where “just a few” young Israelis are often seen hanging out.
The sport attacks both young and old aficionados, and some of the real “veterans” such as one known as Morris “The Great” and Amnon “The Cannon” have decided to take the sport even further by setting up an official Matkot Museum where photos and paddles used by some of the Matkot greats of the sport will now get the attention they are surely due. We would imagine that some of Israel’s most interesting, if not famous personalities have “had a go” at this game at one time or another; and their photos while engaged in a heavy Matkot round will probably be seen there as well. Negotiations are now going on with the Tel Aviv Municipality to be given a suitable place where all this glorious stuff can be put on display for all to see.
In the meantime, Morris “The Great” Zadok, has set up a museum of his own, located at 61 Shabazi Street in the Neveh Tzedek neighborhood (Also known as Shikun Shabazi). There’s even talk about trying to get this great sport entered as an Olympic event. Who knows? It might wind up being the source of Israel’s next gold medal.
As for guys like Morris, and Amnon, you’ll still find them on the beachfront, enjoying the game they have grown to love so much. ” I dream every night of the next day’s game” Amnon says.