Forty-six players from 10 countries are set to take part in the Eighth Israeli Open Scrabble Tournament in Tiberias, on February 19-21, 2016. The annual mind-sport contest is a banner event for Scrabble devotees in Israel and beyond.

This year’s players hail from Austria, Ireland, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, India, England, Australia, US, and Canada. The oldest player is 94, the youngest is 38.

Organizer Maureen Hoch tells ISRAEL21c that the event “confirms that Israel is on the Scrabble map.”

Scrabble is much more than just a word game. The game that requires players to make words out of randomly chosen letter tiles counts millions of players – casual and competitive. There are also dozens of international Scrabble tournaments every year.

Foreign players regularly attend the Israeli Open to meet up with friends, enjoy the summery weather in Israel, and improve their international Scrabble ranking.

“We get to meet players from all over the world — improving international relations. They get to meet us and are exposed to a different view of Israeli society,” Hoch told ISRAEL21c.

Maureen Hoch (left) and Avril Dawn Shaw, both of the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club.
Maureen Hoch (left) and Avril Dawn Shaw, both of the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club.

The upcoming Tiberias event includes cash prize awards. The winner will take home approximately $3000.

Israel – though not an English-speaking country – boasts the largest regular Scrabble gathering in the world in Jerusalem.

Members of the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club, which attracts about 35 players each week from across the country (Arad to Carmiel), regularly participate in international Scrabble contests. This past November, three Tel Aviv club members represented Israel at the 2015 Scrabble World Championship in Perth, Australia.

“The Scrabble community knows us and we have a lot of international friends,” Evan Cohen, the director and founder of the Tel Aviv Scrabble Club and considered Israel’s top player, told ISRAEL21c prior to setting off to Perth.

Hoch says she hopes the international flavor of the contest will “encourage more people to see Scrabble as a sport.”

Evan Cohen, left -- Israel's top ranked Scrabble player on the international circuit -- plays Naomi Landau at a previous Israeli Open Scrabble Tournament.
Evan Cohen, left — Israel’s top ranked Scrabble player on the international circuit — plays Naomi Landau at a previous Israeli Open Scrabble Tournament.

Main photo by Shutterstock.com