The situation cannot be easy: one day you are calm, enjoying cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, and the next day the army of the country where you live is immersed in an armed conflict with a terrorist organization such as Hamas.
There are prior warnings, the conflict is escalating, but in a matter of days, you go from having a normal and peaceful life to having random missiles raining down on the city where you live.
Eial Strahman, an Argentine-Israeli soccer player, told El American how he lived through this armed conflict, his experience playing soccer in Israel, and the day-to-day coexistence with Arab citizens.
“You have to make a difference between those who are Israelis, who unfortunately are already used to all this, and what happens to us, who are experiencing it for the first time,” Strahman, who is currently with Hapoel Bik’at HaYarden FC, a team in Israel’s third division that officially plays its matches in Tomer, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank, explained to us.
“In my case I didn’t hear the siren. I was at home watching TV and I noticed it directly with the bombings, when it all started. Here when the siren sounds you have to go to the shelter, and the first time I didn’t hear it I had to stay in the apartment because I couldn’t go out. So it was difficult that first time.
Eial Strahman is a native of Córdoba, Argentina; he plays as a striker; he had an extensive passage through Argentine soccer and is a fan of the Talleres de Córdoba club, a team where the Argentine-Israeli had one of the best moments of his career between the years 2015-2017, scoring about twenty goals in just over 50 games; he achieved the championship in the Torneo A Federal (2015, third division of Argentina) and then won the title in the Primera B Nacional (2016, second division of Argentina) achieving promotion to the first division.
About the conflict, Eial Strahman asserts that “without the Iron Dome system this would be a massacre” and that, in a way, the Iron Dome and the security protocols generate calm in the midst of the storm of enemy rockets.
“We must not forget that more than 4,300 rockets were launched and all of them are aimed at the civilian population. In other words, they can fall anywhere because they are not guided missiles. Now, how does one feel? You don’t stop feeling fear, but you do feel that you are being taken care of,” he added.
Eial Strahman: “The relationship between the Jewish and Arab communities are normal”
Contrary to what many think, Strahman assures that the coexistence between Israeli and Arab citizens is healthy and cordial, but the problem is that it is not politically convenient for the Palestinian authorities to show this reality.
“The coexistence is completely normal, they are all Israeli citizens who have the same rights. I have colleagues in the club who, although they do not consider themselves Palestinians, are Arab-Muslims, and the coexistence is completely normal as with any other colleague. In fact, when I was playing in Tomer, I had the chance to enter a Palestinian neighborhood, we were with people sharing coffee and the famous narghile that is smoked a lot here; and the coexistence was good. They are all hard-working people, and there are things that are not seen because at the political level they are not allowed to do so much, especially by the Palestinian authority.”
Eial Strahman tells that the authorities in Palestine, in fact, prevent Palestinian civilians from attending Hapoel Bik’at HaYarden FC matches, apparently so as not to show this situation of cordiality between Jewish and Arab-Muslim communities.
“I asked, to those who were sharing, why don’t you go to watch the team’s matches, and the answer was ‘the Palestinian authorities won’t let me’ because you can’t show that coexistence because on a political level it’s not convenient.”
The soccer player emphasized that one of Israel’s strengths is its “diversity” and where he lives, Tel Aviv, is the most important cosmopolitan and liberal point of the country. A city that, as many argue, is practically a Western city, but located in the Middle East.
Another interesting point of view, highlighted by Strahman, is that, usually the Western press tends to cover the Hamas-Israel conflict as a war between Jews and Palestinians. “This is not the case,” the soccer player insists.
“It’s very important for people to understand that this is not a conflict between Arabs and Jews, which is a concept that is used a lot, or a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. No. This is not like that. The enemy here is Hamas and Islamic Jihad, which are terrorist groups, which unfortunately have control of the Gaza Strip. As they are in control, the Palestinian civilian population ends up being hostage to the conflict, with the aggravating factor that, unlike me, who am being taken care of, they are used as shields.”
As a curious fact, and to end the interview, we asked Eial Strahman about Israeli soccer; the country’s soccer culture, how local soccer is structured, what are the curiosities of a somewhat unknown league in America and what are the differences of the Israeli fans with respect to those of South America, considered some of the most fervent on the planet.
The soccer player explained that Israeli soccer, at least in the region, is quite competitive and that it has a particularity: the third division, where he plays, has a better budget than the second division, since the latter is usually used as a showcase for young talents.
Regarding the fans and the soccer culture, Eial Strahman said that “the passion is the same as in South America. What changes is the number of fans in the stadiums. Here, a big club can fill its stadium and bring 40,000 people to a decisive match, but it rarely happens. In the rest of the matches the capacity is between 10,000 and 15,000 fans in first division clubs. In second and third division there are clubs that bring between 6,000 and 7,000 people, then there are others that don’t even bring a hundred.”
“People are loyal fans and follow their clubs. The idiosyncrasy is different, if you lose there is anger, but it is not as fierce as we experience it there, but the atmosphere is very nice.”