WESPA in Profile: Israel

When did Scrabble start in Israel

Competitive Scrabble in Israel was started in the early 1980s by the late Sam Orbaum, the legendary director of the Jerusalem Scrabble club. Back in the day, very few tournaments were played (usually no more than one every year or two), in which only local Scrabblers took part. Most of the Scrabble scene consisted of club play (a dozen or so local clubs at our peak).

The Scrabble Scene Today

Nowadays, Israeli club play consists of two major clubs: The Jerusalem club and the Tel-Aviv club, which was re-founded in 1998, together bringing over 100 players weekly. There are around 200 active Scrabblers in Israel, from all walks of life and age groups, playing at the clubs. In addition, the tournament scene has developed. Our annual Israeli Open tournament attracts dozens of foreign players, as well as many locals. In addition, there are a least half a dozen one-day events played across the country every year.

Israel has been on the international circuit since the first WSC in 1991 in London. We've been represented 11 times (all WSCs except 2003, 2007, 2009) with our peak performances in 1991 (Evan Cohen, 12th), 2013 (Evan Cohen, 15th). Over the last decade, however, the Israeli Scrabble scene has become much more international, ever since the Tel Aviv Club (and the bulk of the local Scrabblers) switched to playing the international dictionary in 2006. Israeli Scrabblers travel abroad to participate in many international events (in the U.K, Malta, Germany, Poland, Australia, The Netherlands and more). Evan Cohen has won the German Open twice (2011, 2013), and been runner-up in the Malta Open twice (2011, 2016).

The Israeli Scrabble Open

Since 2008, the Tel Aviv Club has hosted our annual flagship tourney: The Israeli Scrabble Open, our largest international event. The previous Israeli Opens have been won by 7 different players from 5 different countries: Evan Cohen (Israel – 2008, 2016), Adam Logan (Canada – 2009), Sam Kantimathi (USA – 2010), Mikki Nicholson RIP (England – 2012), Elie Dangoor (England – 2013), Weibin Toh (Singapore – 2014), Graham Haigh (England – 2015).

The upcoming 9th Israeli Open will take place at the beginning of 2017 in February (24th-26th) at the spectacular ancient crusader fortress city of Akko (Acre).

The website for the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club can be found at www.scrabble.org.il and you can also find the Scrabble in Israel group on Facebook.

Text with thanks to Evan Cohen and Scrabble Israel.