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(30 September) Apart from the Sukkot that they build, eat and sometimes sleep, the Bnei Menashe in Israel have another holiday tradition, a gala Sukkot football tournament going back 10 years or more. The traditional tournament was skipped last year due to the covid19 epidemic but renewed during this Hol HaMoed.

The crowd at Afula.

The tournament, a two-day event, was held at the Northern city of Afula. About a thousand Bnei Menashe from all over the country-Beit El, Kiryat Arba, Sderot, Nitzan, Acco, Ma'a lot, Kiryat Shmona, Nesher, Migdal HaEmek, Beit Shean, Tiberias and Tzfat- attended the event. In addition there were dozens of other spectators, including many residents and India Persaud, a social media celebrity.

14 teams competed in the tournament. The players, all from Bnei Menashe, came from many different communities and teams that were formed especially for the event. During the year, most simply play with friends or neighborhood groups.

Match in progress.

The tournaments were held at the Afula Illit Stadium. Each team resulted in the elimination of the losing team in which the winner goes to the next stage. On the second day, with four teams left, semi-finals and the final took place, pitting FC Yehuda, a team comprised of young northerners against Los Asesinos FC, with a heavy contingent from the town of Beit El in Samaria.

The match was a "hardplayed" one, FC Yehuda scored first and led 1-0 at the end of the first half and in the second half Los Asesinos' Moshe Rey equalized it. The game then went into a two 7 minute overtime toward the end of which, Rey scored again, granting a win to Los Asesinos. As a consolation prize, however, Menakhem Haokip was voted the games' most valuable player. Los Asesinos' Moshe Wertheimer from Beit El, son of a Kuki mother and an Ashkenazi father, was voted the best goal keeper.

From the left: Moshe Rei, top scorer, Menakhem Haokip, best player and Moshe Wertheimer, best goal keeper.

Between games, many old Bnei Menashe friends and families that did not see each other all year, spent their time socializing and catching up on one another. Bnei Menashe operated stalls served a variety of home made food to the crowd, including specialties such as dumplings, chowmein, buhchhiar, aloo subzi and more.

"This is my first exposure to the Bnei Menashe community" we were told by India Persaud ,"The people were wonderful and the children adorable. I am sure it won't be the last time".

India Persaud with the winning team, Los Asesinos.



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