Playing Defense for Israel — in the Lacrosse World Cup

Eighteen women will take the field today, donning blue and white uniforms, to represent Israel on the global stage for the first time in the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup.

I am honored to be among this group.

The roster is composed of both Israeli players, as well as members of the Jewish Diaspora, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL). My teammates and I will kick-off tournament play against Germany, one of 19 teams to compete in the tournament taking place this year in Oshawa, Canada.

Israel's Women's Lacrosse Team at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2013 Lacrosse World Cup
Israel’s Women’s Lacrosse Team at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2013 Lacrosse World Cup

How did I get here?

I first traveled to Israel when I was two, in a cardboard box, in the bulkhead of a plane. My parents and I were visiting my grandmother, who had made aliyah at 49. Throughout my childhood I continued to visit Israel, usually for 10 days at a time every three or four years.

From an early age, probably even from that cardboard box, I knew Israel was an important place.

My other grandparents (on my mother’s side) had both survived the Holocaust. After the War, my grandfather, a survivor of Auschwitz, volunteered in a displaced persons camp in Germany helping other Jewish refugees get to British-controlled Palestine. While my grandfather hoped to also go to Eretz Yisrael, his one surviving family member from the war, his brother, was unable to secure a visa and instead they accompanied each other to the United States. While my grandfather spent his adult life in the US, he never ceased to remind me of his dream to live in Israel, the Jewish State, the nation that ensured the Holocaust would never happen again.

Throughout my various childhood trips to Israel, I began to fall in love with the country – the people, the history, the food.

Upon my return to America, however, I would hear things and read things about Israel – in the classroom, in newspapers, at dinner parties with friends – that did not resonate with the country that I knew. As a self-identified American liberal, I was often disturbed and confused by the American progressive camp’s hostility toward the Jewish State.

But I usually remained silent – lacking the confidence or knowledge to speak up.

On my twenty-fourth birthday I decided I needed and wanted to spend more time in Israel. A few months later I was in Jerusalem, working in the venture capital sector, studying Hebrew, and volunteering at a think-tank.

The learning curve was steep. But with every new experience, every new lesson, I came to appreciate the tiny country more and more.

Israel is more than just an insurance policy for Jews living around the world. In a region marred by oppression and tyranny, Israel represents true democracy.

As we saw this week in Egypt, elections do not equal democracy. The true test of a democracy is also not whether a country meets a perfect ideal, but whether a country allows for the exercise of liberal freedoms for all of its people.

Living in Israel, I saw how minorities in the country, including women and Arab citizens, enjoyed equal rights.

I saw that despite the constant threat of terrorism, the Israeli court system regularly holds the government and military to the highest standards of the rule of law.

I started to appreciate Israel not only as a Jewish State, but as a country that shared my liberal values.

And then I found something in Israel that I didn’t expect. Lacrosse.

After a few months in the country, I received a phone call inviting me to join Israel’s first women’s national lacrosse team. I was thrilled. It was not only an opportunity to play lacrosse again (I had played lacrosse throughout my childhood in the US and for Yale University), but a chance to represent Israel abroad and bring a new sport to the country.

Over the past three years, the men and women of Israel Lacrosse have worked tirelessly to promote the sport to over 5,000 girls and boys in Israel from various backgrounds including Ethiopian immigrants, children of foreign workers, and Jewish and Arab students. The men’s team recently hosted the Turkish national team for a friendly competition in Ashkelon.

Last week marked the kick-off of the national women’s team training camp in Tel Aviv. In between 110 degree Fahrenheit practices, the team visited Yad Vashem, planted trees in collaboration with the Jewish National Fund, and ran a lacrosse clinic for Arab Israeli, Jewish Israeli and Palestinian youth in the North of Israel.

The group of women also visited an Israel Defense Forces base. While some of my teammates had served in the IDF, others had never visited a base before. Looking out at the Syrian border, the team learned about the challenges the IDF faces and how Israel goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, often aborting missions to dismantle terrorist targets due to civilian presence at the site.

The team also visited Sderot, a city located less than a mile from Gaza that has been an ongoing target of Hamas Qassam rocket attacks since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005. Over the course of its history, Israel has desperately sought peace with its neighbors and demonstrated a willingness to trade land for peace, often receiving increased terror attacks and violence instead.

I am honored to represent a country that values human life. I am honored to represent a country that seeks peace. I am honored to represent a country that not only protects the Jewish people all over the world, but also represents the highest standards of freedom and democracy.

Lacrosse has allowed me to represent a country I am proud of.

Lacrosse has also allowed me to talk about my experiences in Israel to people who have never been to the country and perhaps have a misunderstanding of the facts on the ground.

I am proud to play for a team that represents freedom. I am proud to play for a team that does not play on Shabbat. I am proud and honored to be a part of Israel Lacrosse.

Follow the Israel Women’s Lacrosse Team on their journey to the World Cup:

Team Roster
World Cup Website
Live streaming (PPV)

Read more Times of Israel MACCABIAH 2013 blogs

See all Times of Israel MACCABIAH 2013 news coverage

About the Author
Sara Greenberg is pursuing a masters degree in public policy from the Harvard Kennedy School and a masters in business administration from Harvard Business School; she was born in Philadelphia, PA but has lived and worked in New York, Hong Kong, Beijing and Jerusalem
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