Israelis cheer football teams of Muslim countries

Israelis have been cheering the teams of their ancestral countries  in the World Cup, Al-Monitor reports:

Fans of the Iranian soccer team leaped out of their
seats cheering wildly and waving Iranian flags when Saeid Ezatolahi
thumped the ball into the back of the net in Wednesday’s World Cup game
against Spain, tying the game 1-1 and leaving Iran a chance to advance. A
moment later, groans of disappointment spread as the goal was
disqualified.

The scene during a televised match in a cafe in Jerusalem (photo: Ilan Ben Zion)

This scene did not take place in Tehran or at the
stadium in Kazan, Russia. It was in a bar in Jerusalem, where the fans
were mostly Israelis expressing their shock and disappointment at Iran’s
defeat.

Geopolitics set aside, many Israeli Jews are rooting for Muslim
countries in this year’s World Cup, including Israel’s archrival Iran.
The Israeli national team has only competed in one World Cup, in 1970,
leaving local soccer fans to root for other teams when the quadrennial
event rolls around.

This year, Iran and four Arab states — Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Morocco
and Egypt — are competing in the World Cup in Russia. This rare showing
of countries from the Muslim world, from which a large percentage of
Israelis immigrated in the 20th century, has prompted many in Israel to
cheer on the teams of their ancestral countries. As of 2011, Israel was
home to 141,000 Jews of Iranian descent, 492,000 Jews of Moroccan
descent, 134,000 of Tunisian and Algerian descent, and 57,000 of
Egyptian origin, according to figures from the Central Bureau of Statistics.

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By contrast a man draped in an Israeli flag was pursued by Tunisian fans in Moscow shouting ‘Palestine’. The story that Moroccan fans tried to snatch an Israeli flag has proved false. JTA story here.

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