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The Scourge of Tel Aviv Beaches –


By: Spencer Ho

Tel Aviv is a stunning city, full of fine restaurants, inimitable nightlife and, of course, beautiful beaches. Stroll along those Tel Aviv beaches, though, and you’ll undoubtedly pass countless people hitting a ball back and forth with paddles, maybe even get struck by a ball or two…

This is Matkot – beach paddle ball – the national “sport” of Israel. Sure, you may see it on all the blogs about “what to do in Tel Aviv,” and it may look like the people playing it are having fun, but when you do the math, there is just no way it can be fun for anybody involved.

And let me tell you why…

What’s the point?

Ok, you hit a ball back and forth with a paddle and try not to let it hit the ground, but why? Do you get anything if you keep the back-and-forth going for longer? Does anybody win? Do you entertain spectators?

No, you don’t.

Watch people try to explain it — not very convincing.

Wayward balls

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I go to the beach to relax, maybe have a bite to eat, talk to some friends and sip on some drinks.

Getting hit in various parts of my body by wayward matkot balls is typically not on my agenda, but it’s a virtual inevitability at the beach in Tel Aviv.

Look, if you want to play some pointless game, I’m not going to stop you, but once a ball smacks me in the back or lands in my drink, it becomes a little bit personal.

Matkot Tel Aviv

Photo: Shira Gal/Flickr/CC BY-SA

Chasing said wayward balls

Maybe hitting a ball back and forth with paddles is just fun for you. Who am I to judge?

But let’s be honest, you actually spend at least half of your time chasing the ball half way across the beach or fruitlessly combing the sea. I steadfastly refuse to believe this can be fun for anybody.

A little help?

No. Just no.

Like I said, I’m at the beach to relax, not to be your personal ball boy. If I don’t feel like moving to catch or retrieve your wayward ball and throw it back to you, leave me alone, move your lazy ass and get the ball yourself.

I’m not the one who chose to play such an absurdly futile game. Why should I have to suffer?

Tel Aviv beach paddle ball

Photo: Niv Singer/Flickr/CC BY-SA

The inconsiderate, over-competitive hard-hitter

Ostensibly, the point of matkot is to keep the ball in the air as long as possible, but I get it. There’s no point to this game, so you have to make it challenging somehow.

That said, let’s revisit a previous point. Chasing balls is the worst part of matkot, and the harder you hit it, the less likely your partner is to hit it back and the farther it will go.

I guess you wouldn’t care if you’re the one hitting it, though, since the guy/girl on the other side is the one who has to chase it down… or yell at somebody else until they do it for you.

In my humble yet correct opinion, that is just downright inconsiderate.

Dogs gone crazy

Walking your dog on the beach is an international past-time. It’s pleasant, fun for the dog, makes for great photos and videos – everybody wins… That is unless your dog is going crazy at the sight of countless little balls flying around the beach and trying to chase one down every 2 minutes.

Entitled jerks

Seriously, they're everywhere! Photo: Nathalie_R/Flickr/CC BY_SA

Seriously, they’re everywhere!
Photo: Nathalie_R/Flickr/CC BY_SA

At Tel Aviv beaches, there are designated areas for beach sports and games — volleyball, handball, working out and even matkot. Why do matkot players think that they own the entire beach? 

So. Loud.

First there’s the constant sound of the ball hitting the paddle. Then you multiply that by 20 because that’s how many people there are playing within earshot.

But that’s not all. You also have the people grunting as loud as they can when they try to hit it hard or try to reach for an elusive one and then yelling or screeching even louder when it proves out of reach — and as if there’s something at stake.

This just in… You’re some dude on the beach in Tel Aviv playing a meaningless game not Serena Williams going for the grand slam.

I’m not the only one, by the way

Wait, there’s more

Photos: Niv Singer, nathalie_r, and shira gal/Flickr/CC BY-SA


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