Raised in the same house, two brothers represent different nationalities, in a historical conflict: “Since we were little, we grew up with discipline, used to working hard”

Footballers Abdallah and Mahmoud Jaber were born in an Israeli city of Palestinian origin. One was the captain of the Palestine national team, the other debuted this summer in the Jersey of Israel.

May 2021. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict ignited once again with extreme violence. 15 days of fire, protests, street fighting, rockets launched by Hamas, massive airstrikes in response to gaza, hundreds of people dead and thousands injured, especially among Palestinians. 

A player and the message that put straw on fire

In the midst of those clashes, footballer Mu’nas Dabbur, the Israeli international of Arab origin, posted on Instagram: “God will take care of those who spread injustice.” As a background, the image of the al-Aqsa mosque, the Islamic sanctuary in Jerusalem. 

Mu’nas Dabbur, in blue, in a match against the German national team Photo: Hepta

A message interpreted in Tel Aviv as an incitement to revenge against the Israeli army. Many fans of the national team demanded his final exclusion, as did radical politicians, the federation temporarily suspended him, but he did not want to give up the blue-and-white jersey. He said he was sorry and returned in the fall of 2021. He was whistled in Haifa in September, even after scoring with Austria, but he covered his ears and wrote on social media: “Only together.” 

Eran Zahavi, the team’s all-time top scorer (33), then defended him: “Mu’nas expected this reaction. I hope it doesn’t happen again in the future. Yes, we will never fully understand each other, nor will we solve all the problems between us, but let us be united at least at the national level and be glad that we have such a team. Mu’nas knows he was wrong, he apologized and it’s all over.”

Dabbur continued to play for Israel. And to score. The last two goals, even against Romania, at 2-2 this year, in the friendly in Netanya.

In both places they are seen as opponents

This conflict in the Middle East has been going on for thousands of years. And the Israelis, and the Palestinians claim it’s their land. Since 1948, since the formation of the State of Israel, the situation has worsened and, from time to time, the apparent silence disappears, replaced by suicide bombings, machine guns, rockets and air sieges. 

Football is trying to mediate, to unite. Sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it fails.

The story of the Jaber brothers, also told by the Tribuna website, is the image of the region. Abdallah and Mahmoud were born in Tayibe, a city in central Israel with a majority Arab population, grew up together, but represent different selections. One, Palestine. Another, Israel. 

“It’s the example of how diverse, complex and deep the conflict between Israel and Palestine is. In one house, in the same family, two brothers represent two teams, two national identities and two different histories. They represent countries that are not only fierce rivals in sports, but live in conflict,” was the conclusion of journalists at the local website Babagol. 

And Abdallah Jaber, the older brother, is even more eloquent in his description: “In the West Bank it is said that we are not real Palestinians, while in Israel, people say that we are not real Israelis.” 

Abdallah Jaber, in red Photo: Hepta

of caps has Abdallah Jaber at the National Team of Palestine, for which he scored two goals

Duels between brothers at the World Cup and at the Euro

Over time, several siblings have evolved for different selections. Here are two cases, the best known: 

– Jérôme and Kevin-Prince Boateng, both born in Berlin, were the first to duel in a World Cup match. Jérôme was playing for Germany. Kevin-Prince for Ghana. They defeated the Germans, 1-0 in the group stage at the 2010 World Cup, but both qualified further.b

Abdallah Jaber, Bnei Sakhnin player: