Last night I went to Israel’s European Championship qualifying game against Latvia. 11,000 fans in Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium erupted in the 81st minute as Beram Kayal scored what was to be the winning goal in a 2-1 victory. Nobody cared that Kayal is an Israeli Arab. Nobody cared because this is completely normal in a country where Israeli Arabs have proudly represented the Israeli national team and play at the highest levels of Israel’s domestic league.
Kayal, who plays for Celtic in the Scottish Premier League, was recently profiled in The Guardian:
“Beram Kayal is Arabic and a Muslim, but I grew up in Israel,” he explains. “I play for the national team. Sometimes people say I’m Jewish. No – I’m Arabic. Sometimes people on the outside can’t understand the bigger picture. They ask how Jewish and Arabic people can live together. But it’s fine, I lived there [in Israel] and I enjoyed it, and I get on with the people there.
“I have friends who are Jewish and, while I don’t want to go too deep into politics, it shouldn’t really matter in sport about Arabs or Jews – if someone says ‘Beram Kayal is an Israeli player’, then that is enough for me.
“Everyone in Israel is happy for me. I am Arabic which is the minority compared to Jewish people in Israel. The Arabic and the Jewish people are happy because I have more friends who are Jewish, I live with Jews and I play in the Israeli team with Jewish people.”
Beram Kayal is yet another answer to those who attempt to label Israel as an apartheid state.