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Playing Defense for Israel — in the Lacrosse World Cup

July 23, 2013 By:
Sara Greenberg
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Sara Greenberg and her teammates on the Israel squad at the opening ceremonies of the Women’s Lacrosse World Cup, which kicked off last week in Oshawa, Canada.
The Women’s Lacrosse World Cup took place last week in Oshawa, Canada with a new team on the 19-country roster: Israel.

Despite Israel’s newcomer — and underdog — status in the tournament, the blue and white defeated Germany (No. 10) in the tournament-opener and finished the competition ranked eighth in the world after forfeiting the final game to avoid playing on Shabbat.

It was not just about winning or losing — the team was making history and I was honored to be a part of the group.

How did I get here?

From an early age, I knew Israel was an important place.

My mother’s parents had both survived the Holocaust. After World War II, 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 America, 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 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 about Israel that did not square 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 24th birthday, I decided I needed to spend more time in Israel and so moved to Jerusalem.

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

Living in Israel, I saw how minorities in the country, such as Arab citizens, enjoy 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 began to appreciate Israel not only as a Jewish state, but also as a country that shares my liberal values.

Then I found something there that I didn’t expect: lacrosse.

About a year ago, 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, 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.

Most recently, Israel Lac­rosse hosted 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.

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 Sede­rot, a city 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 demonstrated a willingness to trade land for peace, often receiving increased terror attacks and violence instead.

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 to people who’ve never been to the country and perhaps misunderstand the facts on the ground.

I am proud and honored to be a part of Israel Lacrosse.

Sara Greenberg, who grew up in Glad­wyne, is spending the summer living and working in Israel. She will return to her graduate studies at Harvard University in the fall. A version of this story first appeared in the Times of Israel.

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