Twenty players and 12 supporters comprised the Maccabi Football Masters Israel Tour 2014, which saw the MGB football team play three matches as well as visiting the Sports Centre for the Disabled.
After an absence of three years, 17 players were making return visits, whereas three players and three supporters were joining the tour for the first time. Tour organiser Stuart Lustigman and Brian Cowan were the only ever presents.
The group visited Dialogue in the Dark, a quite extraordinary experience where each individual is given a stick and is guided by a blind or visually impaired person through different sets of scenery for over one hour but in complete darkness and having to use other senses to determine the nature of the scene. The group then moved onto the Israel Sports Centre for the Disabled after being shown the outstanding facilities for rehabilitation, some of the group participated in wheelchair basketball.
In the evening the team played their first game against a team of Chilean immigrants who, although veterans, were still some 10/15 years younger than the GB team. Despite two goals from Marc Morris and a long-range effort from Ian Leader, Chile ran out 9-3 winners.
The group spent a more relaxing day in Nachalet Binyamin and Carmel markets having lunch in lunch in Dr Shakshuka and then either shopping in Jaffe or a visit to the beach before Kabbalat Shabbat.
The group visited the Ariel Sharon Park which was, until quite recently, a major refuse dump for central Israel and now undergoing a major transformation into a leisure park and animal sanctuary. The long term plan is expected to take 15 years to complete.
A day in Jerusalem with the group having a conducted tour around the most impressive Supreme Court and an explanation of the Israeli legal system. After lunch the group headed for the Kotel where a Hagomel Ceremony celebrated Jonathan Kaye’s first visit to Israel having missed the 2010 tour due to a serious illness.
The day was completed with the group visiting United Hatzalah, a remarkable volunteer organisation that operates a rapid first response for medical emergencies using fully equipped ambucyles designed to save lives by reaching destinations in the shortest possible time, usually within minutes.
The group returned to Beit Uri in Afula which the masters had last visited during their first tour in 2002. Beit Uri, is home for 110 Jewish and Arab children, youth and adults in need of special care, many of whom will spend their entire lives in the security of this small but beautifully maintained village. The final match was against Israel (Ashdod) who went one down to a Simon Lawrence rocket from some 30 yards although they fought back to take a 2-1 lead with just 10 minutes remaining. Maccabi Masters were determined not to finish the tour on another defeat and found a further gear with Marc Morris and Ian Leader scoring a brace each to see the team home 5-2.
Stuart Lustigman said: “This might have been our eighth tour but Israel provides so many wonderful opportunities to explore our heritage and learn first-hand how the fledgling Jewish State has successfully developed and evolved in such a short time. And, oh yes, the football was great too!”
Argentina 6 v Israel (Ashdod) 0
Chile 9 v Israel (Ashdod) 4
Argentina 3 v Chile 3
Chile won the tournament on goal difference from Argentina.