Tok-tik tok-tik tok-tik. At a certain spot on the boardwalk between Tel Aviv and Jaffa, the tok-tiks cannot be ignored: a crowd of people in pairs—all ages, mostly men, a few women—whacking small rubber balls back and forth with wooden paddles. Matkot is this onomatopoetically named activity, played lazily on some American beaches, but in Israel approached with all the passion and intensity of an Olympic game (it is often referred to as Israel’s national sport).
What sets matkot somewhat apart from other games, however, is that it has no official rules; as one player notes: “There are no winners and no losers. Which is good because no one likes to lose.” The principal objectives are absolutely basic: move fast and keep the ball in the air. Play hard. Have fun.