The Qatar 2022 World Cup will break political barriers: 30,000 Israelis will travel to ‘hostile land’ to watch the tournament

The Qatar 2022 World Cup will break political barriers: 30,000 Israelis will travel to ‘hostile land’ to watch the tournament

Diplomatic scales in third countries, a ghost consulate and hidden flags, this is how the 2022 Qatar World Cup will travel 30,000 Israelis who prioritize football fanaticism over the risk of traveling to the first World Cup held in an Arab country and politically hostile to Israel.

“Do you realize how crazy we are that we are going to travel to an enemy country to watch a soccer tournament?”reads a Hebrew message in a Facebook group called World Cup 2022 Official Group.

The comment is one of hundreds that are posted each day on this 9,000-member group created to provide a support network for Israelis traveling to Doha to see top-level football that they don’t have in their country, whose team hasn’t participated in a World Cup since 1970.

One of them is Amit Kaminsky, a 25-year-old Tel Aviv resident who will travel to the Gulf country despite his family’s disapproval.

Go unnoticed in Qatar

“It is true that there will be people from Iran, Saudi Arabia and Arab countries neighboring Qatar. Probably a lot, but we will try not to go with jewish or israeli symbols, not to speak hebrew in the streets and keep a low profile”, he comments to EFE, although he says he is not afraid as it is a massive event, “with people from all over the world and an international atmosphere.”

In the Facebook group, Amit found not only a mutual aid network but also countless tips on how to behave in Qatar, how to stay safe and what to do in an emergency, considering that there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries.

On this issue, although the Israeli Foreign Ministry has not formally announced it, local media confirm that there will be a consular presence on the ground to help those who require assistance. This representation will last only for the duration of the tournament, after which Qatar will once again impose the veto on Israelis that it temporarily lifted on the occasion of the World Cup.

“Qatar is a difficult country for Israel as it has connections to multiple groups such as the Taliban and (the Palestinian Islamist movement) Hamas, in addition to Iran,” Yoel Guzansky, a researcher at the Israel Institute for National Security Studies.

However, it nuances both countries maintain frequent contacts and informal relationsso he believes they will cooperate to keep the Israelis safe.

“Qatar does not want problems, they invested a lot of money to host the World Cup and they are interested in the event taking place in peace and without any crisis”, he anticipates.

For Israelis accustomed to traveling to Europe to watch their idols play, having the world’s biggest sporting event in the Middle East is a unique opportunity.

Although only 2,000 kilometers separate them from Doha, the route cannot be traveled by land or by direct flights  so they must fly through countries such as Cyprus, Jordan, Turkey or the United Arab Emirates.

These logistical difficulties led many fans to go to tourist agencies to manage their trip.

“People prefer to feel safe, so they come to us to have guarantees, such as that their plane does not fly over Iran,” Gabriel Mizrahi, executive director of the TikTik travel agency, which has sold more than 1,000 packages that They include accommodation, tickets and flights with “diplomatic stopover” in Cyprus.

Mizrahi, as well as different local media, estimates that some 30,000 Israelis will travel to the World Cup of which 60% are Jews and the rest belong to the country’s Arab minority, according to their estimates.

“One of the main reasons why I will go to Qatar is because it is an Arab country, which I find very interesting and to which we are prohibited from entering, ”says Mohamed Diab, a 36-year-old computer scientist and resident of the Arab city of Tamra, in northern Israel.

Diab highlights the advantage of the language, which he hopes will allow him to interact with locals and fans from other countries in the region, as he did in Dubai, when he became one of the first Israelis to travel to the Emirates after the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel. in 2020.

The possibility of establishing contacts and bridges with other cultures in the area during the World Cup was also what motivated the Israeli Shajar Cohen to create a line of kufiyas, scarves worn on the head in Arab countries.

“The idea is that all Israelis who travel to Qatar wear their kufiya, in order to send our message of unity from here,” says Cohen, who created the “Kufiyas Ponte” together with Jewish and Muslim partners, with whom he seeks to “show respect for local culture” during the World Cup and reaching out to customers around the world to “feel the atmosphere of the Middle East” during the competition.

“These tournaments are a melting pot of cultures, a mix of people from all over the world connected through sport, and we want to be part of that,” he concludes.

Melissa Galbraith
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.