A Seder service in Belfast proved the ideal preparation for the Israel football squad before the World Cup qualifying group game against Northern Ireland last week.
Celtic defender Rami Gershon — who played in the 2-0 defeat of the Irish — was among those who enjoyed the festival celebration in the squad’s hotel the previous evening.
He said that participating in a Seder before an important game “was very special. All the players were there as friends together. There was a family feeling. The Seder was taken by the coach, Eli Guttman, who said it was the first time he had made a Seder away from his own family. We then had a good game with a great score.”
Belfast Jewish Community’s Rabbi David Singer had offered to host the squad at the communal Seder but was told of the alternative arrangements.
“Their chef brought over everything that they needed,” explained the rabbi’s wife, Judith. “He even offered to bring over Pesach items for us. We did host some fans who were in Belfast for the match and a few Israeli travellers.”
However, the staging of the match on the second night of the festival disappointed Northern Ireland Friends of Israel co-chair Steven Jaffe, who said: “It was a shame that the community could not be represented at the match.”
Although there had been talk of protests, “the biggest thing the Israelis had to contend with in Belfast was the extremely cold weather. Northern Ireland fans joined Israeli fans in walking to the game and the atmosphere was exceptionally warm with Israeli flags flown from all sides.”