“There are people who do sports, there are people who have bikes, there are people who grow beards as a hobby and want to be the best in the world at it," declares Bearded Gilad, the captain of Israel's beard team.
After Noa Kirel put us back on the map at Eurovision, and the under-20 national team broke the curse of Israeli soccer, there are still several other Israelis working hard to bring us honor in the world. In this case, it's at the World Beard and Moustache Championships. Growing facial hair is no longer just a hobby.
The World Beard and Moustache Championship (WBMC) will take place in Germany this weekend, and Israel's national beard team - consisting of 12 representatives from the Israeli 972Beards community - is already there and is ready to take on teams from all around the world in various categories. After a long period of preparation, they hope to come out victorious.
At the head of the Israeli beard team stands Bearded Gilad, who has turned his passion for beards into a profession. This is not his first World Championship. In 2019, he participated in the previous championship held in Belgium and placed ninth in the "Natural Full Beard with Styled Mustache" category.
Alongside him are managers and leaders of the bearded community - including Bar Pinto, the team's spokesperson who will compete for the first time, and Tal Johnson, the team's barber responsible for preparing and designing facial hair. The community consists of approximately 4,300 members, out of which the team was selected.
"Growing a beard is one of the most masculine and Israeli things there is, and the World Championship brings together hundreds of bearded men who compete in one huge and prestigious event. We take it very seriously in our team and are going to represent Israel in Germany," says Gilad.
"As part of the preparations for the championship, we, as a team, are also attending training sessions to understand exactly what's going to happen there and how to prepare."
How was the team formed? "Our team consists of 12 impressive and hairy bearded men from all over the country. There is a global organization that arranges all aspects of beards. It's called the World Beard and Moustache Association and they really recognize us as an official club in Israel. They ordained us with the ability to choose and compete in categories at the World Championship.
In Judo, there is a distribution by weight, so in our case, the distribution is for categories, lengths, and types of beards. Each competes against people in their ‘weight class'. I'm competing in the 'Natural Full Beard with Styled Mustache' category."
What happens in the competition itself? "In the competition itself, everyone has a chance to come up on stage, walk the runway, stroll around and hear the crowd cheer. The judges examine the beard to see that it fits the category and also examine the beauty of the beard. They then hand you the score. It's a beauty pageant for all intents and purposes."
What are the challenges of having a beard? Pinto says, "If I am at a serious meal or a business meeting, I wouldn’t eat shawarma. I also wouldn’t go down on a tomato soup."
Tomer Gol holds the title of "Longest Beard in Israel," with a beard length of 22-24 inches ("depending on which hair you measure"), and he will also try to win the world title.
How does one go about winning the title of Israel's "King of Beards"?
"A lot of patience, a lot of laziness, not getting up and shaving every morning."
What kind of responses do you get from women about your long beards? Gilad: "Women in general, especially in Israel, love beards. The question is what length and what kind of beard. There are those whose partners want them to grow their beards and those whose partners want them to shave their beards. It's a very sensitive topic."
Gol: "My girlfriend loves the beard. She goes around Kiryat Ono with a t-shirt that says 'I like him bearded’."