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Flying and Soaring with the Israel National Team

Courtesy Udi Zitiat

I’m living the dream. I’m living my dream. My dream of being a part of a growing, amazing, industrious, intelligent and special people. Not just the Jewish people, but being a true part of Israeli society. For me flying to Croatia with some of the best Israeli footballers is something very, very, special. I may not be for everybody, but if your a lover of sports, Israel and the Jewish people it may not get any more Zionistic than this.

This past year I’ve had the opportunity, no better yet, privilege to travel to different parts of Europe with both Maccabi Tel Aviv and the Israel National Football Team. Starting back in July through August of 2015, I had the chance to head over to Malta followed by Plzen in the Czech Republic and Basel, Switzerland with Maccabi for Champions League Qualification matches while in October I saw them on the road against Porto in Portugal. This past week I hitched a ride on the Israel National Team flight to Osijek to see them play the Croatian National Team.

For those that may be unfamiliar with some of the players on the Eastern European side let me tell you that players like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic are just two of them who play for Spanish powerhouses Real Madrid and Barcelona. That should give you the idea of what type of team they are.

For Israel we find arguably the greatest Israeli player of our generation Yossi Benayoun who after a star studded European career returned home last season to play for Maccabi Haifa. Benayoun played for teams such as Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea to name just a few. Household names in English Football.

Also on the team was former Belgium league star Elyaniv Barda who graced the pitches of the Belgium league for many seasons, plus Israeli league stalwarts such as Shir Tzedek, Eitan Tibi and up and comers Eli Dasa, only the second Ethiopian Israel player and Ben Biton. Not only that, but English second division star striker Tomer Hemed and Israeli-Arab midfielder Beram Kayal both play for Brighton and Hove and are in position to be promoted to the EPL.

AMAZING! This is my dream.

One of the great things about traveling with an Israeli club is that you feel like you are part of them, because you really are. Sitting amongst the players speaking the common language of Hebrew to Jews, Muslims, Ethiopians, Russians, Arabs and Bedouins from our great country of Israel is truly a unique and stirring experience.

When the players shed their club uniforms and put on the Blue-and-White you feel like you’ve entered somewhat of a twilight zone with everyone shooting for one goal; representing the most unique nation by far in the whole wide world. Watching Eitan Tibi of Maccabi Tel Aviv sitting and talking with Elyaniv Barda of Hapoel Beer Sheva who just a number of hours ago were battling on the pitch for their respective teams in a top of the table clash is just one example. When Yossi Benayoun of Maccabi Haifa joins in it gets a bit more interesting.

Nir Bitton of Scottish side Celtic sitting next to Beram Kayal while Taleb Tawhatha of Haifa leans over from across the aisle is again something extraordinary. Beer Sheva defenders Shir Tzedek and Ofir Davidzada sit right near me watching a movie proving that sometimes club and country are one and the same.

Benayoun turns around to bring Maccabi Tel Aviv’s winger Tal Ben Chaim into the discussion and Hapoel Tel Aviv keeper Ariel Harush adds a few words of insight. Maccabi’s right back Eli Dasa also joins in as does Ben Biton against whom he played against just last night.

Special moments from a special flight. Representing One Country, One Nation.