Mousa Elayyan. Excellent defense player
Photo: Mindy McKinny
Team captain Shlomo Barya Schachter
Photo: Mindy McKinny

Coexistence on the football field

Majority of players in Judean Rebels football team live in West Bank settlements, but team's real stars are four Arab cousins. Living beyond security fence, they are no longer able to make it to team practice

Amotz from Psagot passes the ball to Ramzi from Beit Hanina, who in turn passes it to Oria from Neve Daniel. Oria scores a touchdown and runs to hug Ayoub and Moussa. A hopeful vision of a new Middle East? Not really. This is the day-to-day reality in the Judean Rebels football team, one of nine teams in the Israeli league.


Most of its players reside outside the Green Line in Jewish communities such as Psagot and Efrat, as well as in Arab neighborhoods like Beit Hanina and Shuafat.


Four Arabs played for the team this season: Cameron, Ramzi, Ayoub and Moussa who grew up in Colorado and Miami. When their grandfather fell ill three years ago, the four arrived in Israel with their families. While looking for a football team to join, they never imagined they would end up with the Judean Rebels.


"I was walking in Jerusalem one evening. Suddenly I saw a group of thugs. I asked whether they were into football, and they said: 'Sure, but you should know that we're Arabs,'" says Shlomo Barya Schachter, the team's captain and coach. "The Arabs said they attempted to join another team, but were told it would create tension with the fans and other teammates."


"I told them we didn't care, so long as they agree to keep politics off the playing field," Schachter said.


The four showed up at practice  and immediately fit in. "This team represents the real Judea and Samaria. No one cares where you're from," Moussa says enthusiastically.

Judean Rebels in action (Photo: Mindy McKinny)


Last season, the team finished fourth in the league. Their fans mostly comprise Gush Etzion residents as well as a group of Breslov Hassidic followers who follow the team wherever it goes, armed with a sign which reads "Revolution."


"We talk about politics sometimes, issues such as settlements and terrorist attacks, but never in an argumentative way and always as part of a respectful debate. I don't mind them living in settlements so long as they don't mind me being from Beit Hanina. After all, a good person is a good person," Moussa says.


Some of the players, including Moussa, are applying for football scholarships overseas. The team has sent videos of their games to various universities on his behalf.


Security fence problems 

A month ago, a problem emerged after coach Schachter invited the players to a special practice at the Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem. The four Arab players had moved to the eastern side of the security fence over the summer and have applied for a Palestinian ID card. This means they need the security establishment's approval to attend practice sessions or games. Thus far, their requests have been rejected. 


Consequently, the four failed to attend the opening practice and the following sessions.


"I have a major problem on my hands," Schachter says. "Where in all of Judea and Samaria will I find a player like Ayoub? They were excellent defense players, especially brothers Moussa and Ayoub Elayyan."


Meanwhile, the team is preparing for the new season without its four Arab stars. Still team members hope Cameron, Ramzi, Ayoub and Moussa will return.


"We have players from many places," team member Amotz Eyal says. "But playing with them was different. We welcome anyone. It doesn't matter where you're from, just give 100% effort on the field."



פרסום ראשון: 08.19.10, 07:28
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