One of the constant refrains I hear from my tour group participants is; “we did not expect to see this in Israel.” When ones perception on Israel has been shaped by the media, it often comes as pleasant surprise to encounter the vibrant reality that is Israel. One of the most unusual sports that people simply do not expect to encounter in arid Israel is the quintessential English game of cricket being played on Israel’s ungreen (in summer) but not unpleasant land.
A few weeks ago this paper ran a story on a rather unusual game of cricket in Israel. (“Flames interrupt already hot Israeli cricket,” Times of Israel, July 15, 2012). It featured a team from Rana’ana playing against a team from Lod. The sight of a bunch of Israelis hailing from England and her Commonwealth decked out in their cricket whites would have been incongruous enough without the bushfire in the background! As one can observe in the accompanying photograph, in the true Churchillian British fashion the players, with stiff upper lips, continued with the game, even though it was slightly on the warm side: “We shall never surrender!”
Despite the natural disturbance the game went on, with my brother (with the very Jewish name of “Charlton”) at the crease stoically facing the bowler. The game was briefly suspended for a few minutes to allow the local fire brigade to extinguish the flames, and then promptly resumed.
This game could be read as a metaphor for contemporary Zionism. Israel is in a “hot” neighborhood: Iran is ranting and posturing, Syria is burning, Lebanon and Egypt are smoldering, and from a distance one would assume that Israelis live in a constant state of fear and depression. The reality is, whilst Israelis are concerned and keeping a wary eye on our neighbors, people carry on with their lives with a Joie de vivre that visitors find surprising and uplifting.
As one of the players observed: “the dry climate, shortages of water and absence of purpose-built pitches pose frequent challenges. Games are played on matting pitches in sandy clearings…and on a variety of other temporary pitches laid across soccer fields in other towns.” Just as we Israelis have, against all the odds, managed to use our native ingenuity to create cricket pitches on inhospitable terrain, so too have we managed to revive our language, make the desert bloom, rebuild our homeland, in-gather our exiles and have the ability to defend our homeland and protect Jews worldwide as we continue to reach for the stars. Howzat?!