‘We are the Champions’ was ringing out through Rabin Square when I left at just after 4am. Not even an unseasonal downpour (more than enough to disperse an Israeli crowd usually) was dampening this party.
I planned to get a taxi from my hotel but was told there was simply too much traffic as people continued to pour into the square from all angles and by all means; whether by car, scooter or on foot. The song of the moment was blaring out from every set of earphones and every vehicle during that 15 minute walk, competing only with hooting horns and flashing lights of precautionary Magen David Adom cars as the square neared.
This historic square that witnessed some of the greatest lows in the history of the state was now enjoying a massive high. And you couldn’t help but swell with pride not just at the victory but at the small but not insignificant signs of unity or created wherever you looked; the young guy with a kippah having a picture with a drag queen; religious and secular men dancing together while chanting the name of their latest national hero; the flag of Israel and of rainbow flag of the LGBT community held aloft alongside each other at the centre of the crowds.
For a country all too regularly seen as lacking friends there seemed to be huge delight – and satisfaction – at the public vote of support and the body blow for BDS. As one particularly excited lady was keen to tell me after leaving her three kids with her husband to make the 90-minute journey from Haifa with friends.
But it was in the way Israel reacted to the victory that showed the country at its very best and should be known by more people around the world. The unity, the zest for life and, of course, that incredible capacity for a party. I think it would take an England World Cup win for such a spontaneous gathering in Trafalgar Square in the early hours!
There was even a hint of the spirit of entrepreneurship that is so alive in Israel when a shopping trolley full of bottles of water for sale to fuel to revellers was rolled into kikar Rabin.
I’ve never tried but I imagine you wouldn’t get a particularly friendly response if you tried calling an Israeli a chicken. Tonight, all of israel, were proud chickens!