Slimy, spurious psychics (see June’s Mook of the Month) aside, the hotly-contested title of Most Offensive Israeli, contrary to popular belief, does not go to the swindling taxi driver who besmirches all of his fellow countrymen within an hour of tourists landing at Ben Gurion Airport.
And, though I despise them with a passion, neither does it go to the HOT (cable company) customer disservice representative who cuts off callers – I am convinced deliberately – after keeping them on hold for 45 minutes.
Its recipient is not the arrogant American “settler” who should have done us all a favour and stayed, together with his ugly fanaticism, in Teaneck or Borough Park.
Neither is it the Charedi (ultra-Orthodox Jew) who gives little or nothing to the State but still believes that he has the right to dictate to all of us who do how we should live our lives.
No, the title of Most Offensive Israeli goes to none of the above. And the toughest challenge of Aliyah is not, as is commonly thought, the lower salary, the stifling hot summers, or even the rudeness . . . it is having to suffer the Israeli TV sports commentator.
During Wimbledon fortnight, which ended yesterday, Sport 5 (Israeli cable TV) commentators appeared to feel compelled to employ every nonsensical cultural stereotype about the English . . . but got even those wrong. So, for instance, when Andy Murray’s fourth round match ended at 10:39 p.m. last Monday, we had to endure interminable silly references to the English spectators having to wait for their dinners of “kidney pie” (for those fortunate enough not to know, it is steak and kidney).
And those same commentators were remarkably incapable of distinguishing between spectators’ Englishness, Murray’s Scottishness, and all of their Britishness (for me, after being knocked out, Murray immediately reverted to “miserable Jock”).
Whilst his knowledge and understanding of his subject may be negligible, however, the Israeli sports commentator – like so many of his compatriots – delivers his ignorance with the conviction of the world-renowned authority.
I once, in a Tel Aviv pub, confronted Sport 5′s Avi Meller (right) – a self-proclaimed expert on English football (on the basis that he once, apparently, spent a couple of years in London) – for never mentioning Leeds United’s David Wetherall, then in his mid-twenties, without the epithet “ha’vatik” (the veteran). Meller said he was grateful to be corrected . . . and then continued as before.
Having grown up in a country steeped in sporting tradition (even if a losing one), I won’t deny that there is more than a little snobbery in my disdain for the local sports coverage. But what right do Israeli commentators have to refer to Liverpool footballer Steven Gerrard, as they continually do, as “Stevie Gee”?!
Not for the Israeli sports commentator the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words”, nor the sacred rule – applied by the very best TV journalists and commentators the world over – of “Letting the pictures speak for themselves”. No, he prefers to speak (usually bollocks) for the pictures, with the result that many will only watch them with the sound turned down. Moreover, his predictions – which are, generally, ridiculously reactive to the toings and froings of a particular match – are invariably and uncannily wrong.
Israeli TV’s football studio pundits are even more insufferable than its commentators, the ex-pros having to be suffered most being the Arse’s Arse (Hebrew for medallion man) Itzik Zohar and that most arrogant of gobshites Eyal Berkovic.
Zohar (left, during one of his eight [including four as substitute] appearances for Crystal Palace) has not let his “glassing”, last year, on Tel Aviv’s Rothschild Boulevard – which left him requiring 52 stitches to his face – dent his formidable ego (many believe the unknown assailant to have been a vengeful boyfriend or husband).
Neither does Zohar’s ignominious inclusion in Crystal Palace fans’ all-time worst eleven – believe me, he had some competition! – prevent him from pontificating about Champions’ League football. Yes, this is the very same Itzik Zohar to whom Palace fans used to sing: “One Itzik Zohar. There’s only one Itzik Zohar. One Itzik Zohar. One too many.” When Crystal Palace fans sing that – and to one of their own – it is time to consider not only hanging up one’s boots . . . but also why one ever put them on in the first place.
Zohar, however, is a positive breath of fresh air when sitting alongside Berkovic (right), who delights in publicly, spitefully rubbishing Israeli League players purely on the basis that they are not as good as he once was. Many Israelis’ fondest memory, however, of the career of Berkovic – who, as one of the country’s all-time great footballers, should have been a national treasure – is of the time his West Ham teammate John Hartson kicked him in the face during training. That the actions of the yobbish Welshman were understood by many here tells you everything you need to know about this odious little tosser.
Domestic football appeals, almost exclusively, to the lowest common denominator of Israeli society (see my second ever post on melchett mike: Ran Ben Shimon: A Deeper Malaise). And most of my fellow expat Brits regard it in much the same way that the former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly did his city rivals: “If Everton were playing down the bottom of my garden,” he memorably quipped, “I’d draw the curtains.” Rather more intelligent, professional coverage by the Israeli media, however, might change (if slowly) its public perception.
The glowing exception to the embarrassment that is Israeli television sport is the excellent, charismatic Sport 5 presenter Modi Bar-On (left), who would give even a Des Lynam or an Adrian Chiles a run for their money.