In relation to population size, Israelis have purchased more tickets for the World Cup Finals starting Thursday than any other nation.

The great distance, extremely high prices for travel, accommodation and tickets, reports of social protest, and even the questionable safety in Brazil are not stopping Israelis from attending the world’s greatest soccer tournament in large numbers.

The number of tickets sold to Israelis through FIFA’s website – 11,222 (tickets were limited to 17 per individual, and allocated via a raffle system) – puts Israel 17th in terms of tickets purchased globally – ahead of, for example, Italy, which has won the final four times and competes again this time.

As well as topping the proportionate list, Israel also placed second in ticket sales among countries that do not have a team participating at the World Cup (32 nations compete in the tournament, which runs through July 13).

According to information from the Live Ticket company, Israelis are most interested in seeing Spain – whose side is comprised mainly of stars from Barcelona and Real Madrid, and is the reigning World Cup champion. Argentina (with Lionel Messi, of course), Brazil, Portugal and England are also popular.

The match with the greatest draw for Israelis takes place on Friday night, between Spain and Holland – a rematch of the 2010 final won 1-0 by the Spaniards. The June 18 match between Spain and Chile and June 15 game between Argentina and Bosnia are also big draws.

Naturally, the quarterfinals, semifinals and the final itself are also major attractions. There will be some 2,500 Israelis present at the “premium” matches – Thursday’s opener between Brazil and Croatia, the semifinals and final.

Israelis have also proved adept at reselling tickets won through FIFA’s lottery system. Even though it is against FIFA’s regulations to resell a ticket, it is not illegal in many countries. Individual tickets for matches during the early stages of the tournament are going for between $650 and $1,000. Semifinal tickets are reaching anywhere between $1,900 and $4,200.

Those wishing to purchase a ticket for the final itself can do so at the hefty price of between $5,500 and $10,000.