After Miracle Soccer Victory, Jaffa Revels in the Spoils

The biggest home draw − particularly for Arab residents − remains Hapoel Tel Aviv, who play in Jaffa’s Bloomfield Stadium.

None of the red shirts that filled the streets of Jaffa last night had been put on by chance. Many were seen on one of the city’s main arteries, Jerusalem Boulevard, but more still in its hardscrabble Ajami quarter.

Hapoel Tel Aviv's Gil Vermouth
Nir Keidar

Hapoel Tel Aviv practice jerseys and Che Guevara T-shirts were in abundance, as were red-and-white scarves despite the unseasonably hot weather.

Many Jewish residents of Jaffa were once dyed-in-the-wool Maccabi Jaffa fans. Despite that club’s rebirth two years ago in the lower soccer tiers, the biggest home draw − particularly for Arab residents − remains Hapoel Tel Aviv, who play in Jaffa’s Bloomfield Stadium.

Hummus Abu Marwan is a Hapoel stronghold often visited by club officials. Fayaz Abu Marwan and his wife both were sporting red shirts, as did the wait staff. Abu Marwan explained how almost the entire restaurant staff crammed into the backroom to watch the game.

Half apologizing, he said that with all the extra business that night, there was no time to travel to Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium for the match. Hapoel’s Eran Zehavi scored an injury-time goal to send his club over Beitar Jerusalem 2-1 and steal the league championship from Maccabi Haifa.

Abu Marwan said he has yet to recover from the miracle of Saturday night’s victory, and now is waiting eagerly for players to visit his restaurant bearing the championship plate. At one point he even picked up the phone to see if Jimmy was coming − Rifaat “Jimmy” Turk that is, the Jaffa-born fisherman’s son who was a Hapoel legend and the first Arab to play for Israel internationally.

Also eagerly awaited is the miniature horse scheduled to arrive to be painted in yellow, the color of Hapoel’s crosstown rivals Maccabi Tel Aviv. He’ll be paraded around Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

Meanwhile, Abu Marwan’s owners and staff stood around the kitchen endlessly recounting the ups and downs of the previous night’s match − the players who received red cards, the missed penalty kick, and Zehavi’s goal when all seemed lost. In the kitchen, one fan brandished a mobile phone and showed off a picture of himself posing with the coveted plate.

At one point Salim Toama walked in. The midfielder, born and raised in Lod, played five seasons for Hapoel and now plays for Larissa FC of Greece’s first division. Toama, however, makes clear that he has come to share in Hapoel’s victory, not to speculate on whether he may be returning to the club where he made his name.

Deeper inside the building, we spot executives from Tzabar Salads and representatives of dozens of supermarkets; they’re there to taste a new variety of Abu Marwan’s hummus that will later be packaged and branded under the Tzabar logo.

Will the small hummus joint on Pierre Mendes France Street turn into an empire? Has God touched Jaffa? Perhaps.