2 Israelis go to war… against paddle ball
Mad at matkot

2 Israelis go to war… against paddle ball

Tel Aviv filmmakers take on the country's favorite beach game in a YouTube satire

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Filmmakers Tom Shinan and Liran Goldberg don’t know Amnon Nissim. Which is probably for the best.

Shinan and Goldberg are the creators of “Matkot — The End,” a satirical, 14-minute documentary about their hostility toward matkot, the beach paddle game they claim is terrorizing Israeli beaches. Nissim is the 66-year-old matkot maven who is attempting to have it made into an Olympic sport.

Nissim has established a matkot museum in his Tel Aviv home; Shinan and Goldberg can (at time of writing) claim 76,000 views of their YouTube video trashing the game, the equivalent, asserted Shinan, of millions of views in the US.

Shinan — he’s the long-haired co-star of “Matkot”; Goldberg is the one with the beard — said he has been approached by people on the Tel Aviv streets, asking him when there is going to be a demonstration against the wooden paddle game. In truth, though, the whole film was more of a satire, he said, which got started after he took a stroll along the beach last summer.

“I’m not a big beach person,” he said. “But when I got there, I saw that you can’t just walk on the beach because it’s like a firing line of matkot. I found myself bending down to avoid the balls. It was totally noisy, a completely pressured experience.”

On a lark, he suggested to Goldberg, a fellow scriptwriter at television channel Keshet, that they make a film about matkot. To his surprise, it was Goldberg who pushed the project forward.

“I realized it could be something small, but good,” said Shinan, noting that an entire crew of volunteers made the film. “It’s symbolic, referring to the aspect of Israeli culture in which people think that all public space belongs to them, whether it’s the car drivers who don’t pay attention to bike riders, or the people who tell their life story on their cellphones while sitting on the bus or train. It’s so Israeli, but we decided to make it funny and get people to think about it.”

Starting with the background sound of the siren used when rockets are about to fall on Israeli cities, and continuing with Goldberg and Shinan’s conversations with matkot players, interviews with people who have been hurt by matkot and a Tel Aviv lifeguard, “Matkot” is humorous and spot-on.

With those 76,000 views so far on YouTube (for the Hebrew version, not the one shown here with English subtitles), it’s “a huge viral success,” said Shinan, and it happened very quickly, receiving plenty of Hebrew media coverage.

“They’re calling it the new social protest,” laughed Shinan. “But of course nothing’s changed, and there’s no battle. I’m not like that. We’re just proud that we could get that many people to watch something for 15 minutes on YouTube.”

As for the beach, it’s still not one of Shinan’s favorite places in Tel Aviv. And obviously he blames the matkot. But he does have an admission that might interest Amnon Nissim: “If I were a great matkot player,” said Shinan, “maybe I wouldn’t have done this.”


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