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From Rockets To Goals

Behold, a nice story about an Israeli soccer team that is finding success on the field.

Bonus: It paints Israel in a positive light.

“Flying Pig” bonus: It is from the New York Times

This city is one of Israel’s smallest, a hardscrabble place with a population of 23,000 that is less than two miles from the Lebanese border and through the decades has repeatedly found itself caught in the crossfire of Arab-Israeli strife

In 1974, Kiryat Shmona was the scene of a terrorist attack in which 18 Israelis, many of them children, were killed. Rockets have clobbered the town during cross-border fighting. Underground shelters are as familiar to the city as traffic lights. And jobs can be scarce.

Yet somehow, Kiryat Shmona’s professional soccer team has become the runaway leader of Israel’s top league, has captured a separate tournament that concluded this week and has begun to turn perceptions of this often-beleaguered community upside down.

For now, the king of soccer in this country is a team that plays in a 5,500-seat stadium, has a diverse 23-man roster that includes six Israeli Arabs and is still adjusting to the curiosity it is creating.

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The team’s rise can largely be traced to one man — Izzy Sheratzky, a millionaire from Tel Aviv who made his money in Global Positioning System devices that help track stolen cars and who founded the club 10 years ago.

Sheratzky, a native Israeli, began investing heavily in Kiryat Shmona after being moved by images of its being pounded by Katyusha rockets 13 years ago. Eventually, he decided to buy two local clubs and merge them with a dream of taking his new team to the highest level of European soccer.

“In 1999, I saw the wars and the Katyushas and many bombs,” he said in an interview last Saturday an hour before his team took the field. “Many people left Kiryat Shmona. The situation was very bad. There was no work and there was the bombs. I decided to take care of Kiryat Shmona and to help them.”

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It will try to do so with a combination of journeyman players, young prospects, a handful of foreigners — including a 27-year-old Argentine-American midfielder, — and, perhaps most significantly, a mixture of Israeli Arabs and Jews.

“For us, this is very important,” Edri said of the roster’s makeup. “With football you can do peace, the Arab and Israeli living together.

Read the whole thing.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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