BUDAPEST, Hungary – The toll of the ongoing conflict on the Israeli national football team and its remarkable journey toward qualifying for the European Championships were among the topics poignantly shared by Moshe (Shino) Zuares, president of Israel’s Football Association, at a Thursday event hosted by the World Jewish Congress at the Rumbach Synagogue in Budapest.
Zuares spoke of the team's journey as a pursuit of sporting excellence as well as a beacon of hope and resilience for Israeli society. While the Israel-Hamas conflict has forced the team to relocate their “home” matches to Hungary, it has emerged as a unifying symbol, inspiring and rallying Jewish communities worldwide.
"Football brings together people from different backgrounds, religions, and world views,” Zuares said. “When players enter the dressing room, a human melting pot, they emerge as a unified team, whose shared purpose is greater than the variance of its members and greatly empowered by it.”
He added, "From the minute the war broke out, the IFA took upon itself a major role in supporting, unifying and encouraging the Israeli society. We raised donations, visited hospitals and IDF bases, conducted special tournaments for children who survived and were evacuated from their homes, donated hundreds of pairs of football shoes and balls to people who, during and after the war, will go back doing what they love most.”
The event also served as a platform for discussing the broader role of sports in society, particularly in times of adversity. Esteemed panelists, including diplomats, sports ambassadors and former national team players, engaged in discussions about strengthening bilateral relations and the impact of sports on community resilience. The panels were moderated by Adi Rubinstein, a noted journalist and sports historian.
Prof. Dr. Andor Grósz, vice president of the World Jewish Congress and president of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary, emphasized the importance of these discussions: "Today's conversations shed light not only on the power of sports to uplift and unite but also on the critical role they play in fostering dialogue and understanding across different communities. Today, we in Hungary are all supporters of Israel’s national team and the entire country during this time of crisis.”
The plight of over 200 Israeli hostages held by Hamas since October 7 was also a focal point. Amb. Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, has campaigned since October 7 for global attention and action for their release.
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