The Israeli flag and flag of Saudi Arabia side by side in Riyadh

For the first official time in recorded history, the Israeli National Anthem, “Hatikva”, was played within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, during an efootball competition earlier this week. The FIFAe Club World Cup an electronic Football (Soccer) tournament includes a team from the Israel eFootball Association, which won the FIFAe European Championship in video games about two months ago. The team made history, landing last Friday in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, after receiving special permission from Israeli & Saudi government officials.

The group of gamers is participating in the world championship which began on Tuesday. The players of the team are Roy Feldman, Yuval Beli, and Nissim Issat and it is guided by Erez Gabai and its manager is Zvika Kosman. National team player, Nissim Issat told Israeli reporters: "We are European champions and we came to Saudi Arabia, for the world championship, to win another title and bring honor to the country."

National team player, Yuval Beli added: "Years of hard work brought us to this moment. It started as a hobby and turned into a full-time profession. Many hours of training and games gave birth to a unique group that, in all modesty, became one of the best in the world."

Shino Zoertz, chairman of the Israeli Football Association also issued a statement on the exciting matter: "The arrival in Saudi Arabia is sponsored by FIFA, the organizer of the tournament, and was made possible after great assistance from the Minister of Culture and Sports Miki Zohar and the Minister of the Interior Moshe Arbel, who approved the participation. I believe that sports, on the grass and on the screens, can also lead to a breakthrough between the countries and I thank the Saudis for their exemplary hospitality and treatment.”

"Our team is young and has already recorded tremendous achievements which helped us connect with a young and diverse audience. It also consists of players who are proud to represent the Israel Football Association and the State of Israel and reflect the diversity that makes our company unique."

The unique situation which led to the Israeli “Hatikva” being heard on Saudi lands comes just as Amos Hochstein, the Biden administration’s special emissary, arrived in Israel for secret talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  Amos became President Biden's emissary for various issues in the energy sector. Among others, he was in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Israel. With the help of the extensive knowledge he has gained on energy issues, he runs from place to place with the aim of solving international crises that the White House deems as crucial and of great importance. A senior Lebanese official who negotiated during the maritime border talks earlier in 2022 said that Hochstein: "turned out to be a skilled negotiator with a sense of humor."

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