By Eric Hal Schwartz/JNS.org
Click photo to download. Caption: Israeli women’s lacrosse team member Sara Greenberg wields her stick. Credit: Donna Pedersen.
This story was originally published by the Washington
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,
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
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
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
“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
“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.