Amidst a nationwide strike launched on Wednesday morning, closing all borders, ports and Ben-Gurion Airport, a planeload of British soccer fans managed to land in Israel in the afternoon. The fans arrived a few days ahead of the Euro 2008 qualifying match against Israel to be played on Saturday evening in Ramat Gan.
“We read about the strike, but luckily we weren’t affected. I am really looking forward to the game, England is going to win, sorry," said Anny Condon from London, who landed at 3:40 p.m.
England’s fans walked out the departure gate, chanting their soccer cheer. Their plane was among the few exceptions that landed, even though the strike was still on.
The group that arrived is to be among the first organized group of British soccer fans to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial.
The visit was organized by Football4Peace, which uses sports to bring children from different communities together. Each team will be outfitted in English club shirts ranging from Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur to Wycombe Wanderers and Wealdstone.
On Friday morning, the fans will travel to Yad Vashem where they will lay a St. George Cross wreath with two cards from the supporters reading: “Never Forget” and “Never Again.”
Maccabi UK organized a Shabbat dinner for the supporters group at Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan on Friday night. While the majority of England fans traveling to Israel are not Jewish, Maccabi hopes by this special Shabbat meal to bring both sets of supporters together and introduce the fans to Jewish culture and customs.
Over 6,000 fans are expected to travel to Israel and tour the country to places like the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Eilat.