MANAUS, Brazil – Oren and Dror Ruhana are out to enjoy the World Cup, but also to spread the good word of what Israel really is.
And the easiest way to do that is attending as many games as they can and at each one hold Israeli flags with great pride.
The brothers from Kiryat Ono, aged 30 and 23 respectively, are traveling to six cities and have tickets to eight games, including the elimination phase of the quarterfinal and the third-place match in Sao Paolo on July 12.
They both left jobs and spent about 5,000 shekels just for game tickets. After the World Cup, they plan to continue and travel in South America for another three months.
“We take the flags everywhere we go. One thing for sure, an Israeli flag opens the door, for conversation, for comments, for smiles. So far everyone has been nice to us, we had no problems. People approach us and ask to take pictures with us, it’s been a real experience”, said Oren, the younger brother.
“We stay in guesthouses and there you really meet fans from all over the world. We met and talked to a few Iranians. It was a short and polite conversation. And with us it’s been all positive”, added Dror. “It seems that for this one month everyone here wants to talk about football, food, girls, culture, just not politics.”
The two have not met a lot of Israelis in the smaller towns, but plenty in Rio de Janeiro.
Social media has been a great tool to stay in touch and share their experiences.
“Israelis in the World Cup 2014” is a Facebook group that helps Israelis connect to each other, for example. The brothers try not to be too obsessive about social media.
“Once a day we’ll load pictures and some text to WhatsApp and Facebook, and that’s about that, otherwise you are constantly consumed by it and not enjoy the moment”, explained Dror.
The brothers left Israel two days before the kidnapping of the three teens in Gush Etzion.
“We heard about the efforts to bring them back and the campaign around the world to support their families, we try to do what we can by just showing that we are good, nice, positive Israelis who just want to live our lives in peace.”
Their only disappointment so far? “We root for Spain, so seeing them lose so early and go home was a bit hard to swallow.
Oren and Dror’s biggest challenge may just be ahead of them. On Wednesday they will carry their Israeli flags into a stadium full of supporters of countries not known for their admiration of Israel.
That’s not going to stop them. Rest assured, they tell me, an Israeli flag is going to fly high when Iran faces Bosnia-Herzegovina at the Fonte Nova Arena in Salvador.
The author is an editor at The Jerusalem Post who is in Brazil to fulfill his lifelong dream of attending the World Cup.