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July 21, 2013 7:23 am

Israeli Lacrosse Team to Forfeit Chance at Title Due to Shabbat

avatar by Eric Hal Schwartz / JNS.org

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Israeli women's lacrosse team member Sara Greenberg wields her stick. Photo: Donna Pedersen.

JNS.org – This story was originally published by the Washington Jewish Week

The Israeli women’s lacrosse team will not play on Shabbat, even though this means they cannot win the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) 2013 Women’s World Cup, which ends this weekend in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada.

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On Wednesday, the 10th-seeded Israelis defeated 7th-seeded New Zealand, 12-9, to guarantee a top-eight finish in the World Cup.

The coach and players are completely behind the decision not to play on Shabbat, said Scott Neiss, director of the Israel Lacrosse Association.

Lacrosse is a new sport in Israel, Neiss and others founded the ILA just a few years ago, and this is the first time Israel has competed in a Lacrosse World Cup. Being an Israeli team means that the national identity and culture are a part of the nature of the team, Neiss explained, and therefore it’s the official policy of the organization not to play on Shabbat.

“As a player representing Israel abroad, it’s really important to be true to the values of who you’re representing,” said Sara Greenberg, a midfielder on the team.

But the rules of the FIL forbid teams from playing more than one game in a day and the tightly scheduled tournament, which began last week, requires whatever teams are left in the tournament—a group that will include Israel—to play this Saturday.

“They can’t change the times of the games so we have to play or forfeit,” Neiss said. “We chose to forfeit.”

The question of Israel playing on Saturday was first raised about six months ago, before the FIL created the game schedule, when the ILA requested that they be excused from any Shabbat games. The ILA offered several alternatives to avoid having to forfeit a Saturday game, suggesting they play Friday before sundown, Saturday after sundown or even early Sunday morning.

“Unfortunately they quoted the rules about not playing more than one game a day,” Neiss said.

Since there will only be eight teams left on Saturday, scheduling fair rest and play time for all the teams made it impossible for the FIL to accommodate the ILA’s request, insisting they would either have to play or forfeit.

The FIL did schedule the games so that Israel would not have to play during the first Saturday of the tournament, for which the ILA thanked the group in a statement, while still committing to not playing on Shabbat.

“As a team we are all completely on the same page about this,” Greenberg said, adding that they were all proud of the decision to stick to their policy of not playing on Shabbat.

Greenberg is one of several foreign-born players—she’s from Philadelphia—on the team, joining not long after moving to Israel two years ago. Jews from abroad as well as Israelis can play for the ILA and all of them signed on to the no-playing-on-Shabbat rule as an aspect of the nation’s character.

“It’s an obvious extension of what we do,” Greenberg said.

As of this report, the Israeli team has a 5-1 record, before its Thursday matchup with 2nd-seeded Canada.

Although they will have to forfeit, Neiss said he is hoping that the opponent they would have played against will be willing to compete in an exhibition game out of sympathy and love of the game even though it would have no effect on the standings in the tournament.

Israel will also compete in the Men¹s Lacrosse World Championship next year in Denver and the same rule about playing on Shabbat will apply. It’s too early to say if the scheduling will force the team to have to make the same hard choice again, but the ILA has already started reaching out to lacrosse governing bodies in several countries in an effort to build support for their commitment to not playing on Shabbat but wanting to still fully participate in international tournaments.

“At the end of the day it’s representing the country,” Greenberg said.

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  • I thoroughly respect the decision not to play on Shabbat. One should not have to sacrifice dearly-held values and identity for competition. Shabbat was given to us as a gift. It yields far more to a person who gets the idea than any trophy possibly could. I already see them as champions, no question.

  • Moshe

    It is a huge and difficult decision and one that should be commended. It should be mandatory for all activities that
    represent the State of Israel – in Soccer, Basketball and Baseball, for starters. When the Prime Minister or President of Israel flies on Shabbat or takes part in some press conference or other activity that defiles the national rest day – it is
    an abomination !
    The nations need to respect Jewish values, such as Shabbat and be considerate in their scheduling in advance.
    When we stand up for our values as a nation, the nations will respect us too.
    And this is a national issue, regardless of what the individual people do in their private lives, which is irrelevant.

  • I would say that the Israeli team had to forfeit NOT due to Shabbat. But rather due to the leagues refusal to show any flexibility or leadership especially when they knew of this issue before the scheduling was done. Same thing will happen to the men’s team in Colorado in the near future. I’d also like to ask why no mention of the forfeit was found anywhere on the IFL website.

  • Carol

    Hypocrisy. These are American girls who travel on Shabbat when they are home in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Before you start praising them, find out why Mr. Neiss, his coaches and several of the Israel players participated in Closing Ceremonies – on Shabbat! On the previous Saturday, I wonder if they all observed Shabbat or maybe some went with their c=visiting parents – by car – to tour?

    • Danny Kurtz

      I’d really like to know how Carol knows, whether, or how many of those wonderful girls are or aren’t shomeret Shabbat in their private lives. Carol calls it ‘hypocrisy’ (not ‘MAYBE hypocrisy’) that
      “… MAYBE some went with their visiting parents – by car – to tour .”.
      And if a non-shomer-Shabbat Jew recognizes the importance of not violating the Shabbat when representing the State of Israel in an official capacity, he deserves to be called ‘hypocrite’?? Or if a non-shomer-Shabbat Jew stam on a specific occasion makes a decision not to violate the Shabbat (for whatever reason) he deserves to be called ‘hypocrite’?? I think Carol displays a tremendous insensitivity in not recognizing the nobility of spirit of those girls who worked for months, perhaps years, to get to a certain point, and then gave it all up for the sake of a principle, in this case, Shabbat. I suggest that Carol apologize to those marvelous girls.

      • Carl

        Well said, Danny! These girls deserve credit for their honorable representation of Israel.

  • mh8169

    I applaud the team for making this decision. One of the comments from Pincas is just plain drivel. These young women made a decision on their own and it was not mandated by some senior executive. I salute these ladies for having the courage to stand up for their beliefs. It is unfortunate that some on the left side of the political spectrum just cannot understand this. And I believe they are empty, empty souls.

  • E S Carroll

    I thoroughly respect the decision not to play on Shabbat. One should not have to sacrifice dearly-held values and identity for competition. Shabbat was given to us as a gift. It yields far more to a person who gets the idea than any trophy possibly could. I already see them as champions, no question.

  • Ella Shishler

    What a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name)- publicly accepting G-d’s will. May they all be blessed with much revealed brochas from Hashem in their lives.

  • Mel

    Leftists with ‘Me-First’ attitudes are living proof that nobody—not even a ‘Jew’—is exempt from the old adage: “Those who believe in Nothing will fall for Anything.”

  • Marg

    Well done team to stick to your beliefs of obeying YHWH, you are to be congratulated, enjoy your Shabbat!!

  • Chernasky

    Israel’s women’s lacrosse is in the great tradition of Sandy Koufax and Hank Greenberg.
    Pinky, go drown yourself.

  • aall55

    Religion has separated me from members of my family as from friends as well , creating difficulties as traveling on shabbat , or eating or not in my home …etc….Why isolating ourselves for religion ? Do we really expect others to bend over backwards to accommodate our beliefs ? .

  • The decision not to play sports on Saturday is crazy.

    Why do Jews have to applaud those that like to shoot their own feet?

    True sport is enjoyment – not work and not business – so what is your problem?

    Are our religion-bureaucrats any better then the Islamist enemies? Are there no Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, or secular Israelis on that team that ought not be forced out of the game?

    Beith Yaacov girls do not compete in sports anyway. So on whose back was that decision made?

    • Liron

      Did you not read the part where it says the whole team is behind not playing? Shabbat is not about pleasure. Its about rest and focusing on your family, community, and Hashem.

    • You are accurate that the decision is crazy – it is not in the realm of common sense. This is the work of the innermost part of the Jew – that does not want to separate itself from Hashem even when it does not make sense.
      And this innermost core can express itself even in people who do not usually demonstrate a loyalty to Hashem – it just has a way of surfacing when there is pressure to deny Hashem – then it responds with pride.

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