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For Théo’s birthday, which was a few weeks earlier, a couple of us decided to go up to Haifa for a soccer game. He is a huge fan of soccer, and Justine, Eti, and I are also big fans, so it promised to be a good time.

We left Jerusalem very early, at like 4 in the afternoon, because Eti explained that getting seats at an Israeli soccer game is not so easy as having tickets – you might have a seat number on your ticket, but getting said seat all depends on getting there early enough. We took the bus up to Haifa, which was a fairly smooth trip. Arriving, Mr. Pitilon picked us up and drove us towards the stadium. As a former cab driver, he knows all the best nooks and crannies to park one’s car in the city, and we got the ideal mix between close proximity to the stadium/ease of driving away afterwards ratio.

We walked up to the stadium (which in typically Israeli fashion looked more like a prison than a sports venue, with high concrete walls, barbed wire, CCTV cameras, and machine gun-wielding police all over the place), and waited to get our tickets. Again, in typical Israeli fashion, they compartmentalized all the entrances to the stadium so that you had to enter into the stadium by the gate closest to your seat, thus allowing for many, many more security guards and quick lines. I was livid, though – they told me I couldn’t bring my water bottle into the stadium (I understand the “make people buy overpriced beverages” line of business), but they wouldn’t even let me bring it in empty. I have carried that water bottle across a couple of continents now, and it has served me well. I tossed it off behind a pillar and was luckily able to retrieve it later, but the principle of the matter still irked me.

We got inside very early (by like 2 hours) and got our seats, and watched the stadium start filling up slowly. Then, it began to fill more quickly. Then the floodgates REALLY opened (as the ticket office fixed several of the printers which had wonked out at the same time), and suddenly the stadium was FULL. Not like “every seat with a person” – more like “every seat with at least one person, and then the stairs and walkways filled with people on their feet the entire game. Full.

The game started in earnest, and was enjoyable experience. It was entertaining to watch portions of the stadium all grasp their heads in anguish as if choreographed – if Haifa missed a shot, the green portions of the stadium would simultaneously all be outraged. Haifa was definitely the better team for the entire game, with the only factor preventing a bigger disparity in end scores being the Tel Aviv goalie.

It was a long, long, long trip back to Jerusalem, with a car ride, a train ride, and a shared taxi ride all involved. I eventually got into my room and thus had my first experience of being awake late enough in Jerusalem to hear the Al Aqsa call to prayer for the really devout Muslims. As the next post will explain, it was to be the first of 8 consecutive nights being up past 4 AM, but the only one of those nights not spent working the whole way through.

Here is a short video I took, of the end of one Haifa soccer chant that involved the two halves of the stadium responsively yelling; the second part is the ever popular “haYarok Oley,” or “the Green is on the rise,” referring to Haifa’s team colors.

And a couple of photographs I took – the best one is the shot I got of the Tel Aviv goalie missing one of the shots, what ended up being the winning goal for Haifa.

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