Sarah Sall has traveled around the world — to Cuba, Brazil and Trinidad, among other places — as a massage therapist for the U.S. men’s national rugby team, but she has never been to Israel.
She'll check that country off her list later this month when she travels to the Jewish State as a member of the medical staff for the U.S. men’s rugby teams competing at the 19th Maccabiah Games.
Sall was among about 50 athletes, staff and family members who gathered June 30 at Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Center City for a send-off party in anticipation of the quadrennial Jewish games. There was a buzz in the room as those who had traveled to Israel previously or participated in past Maccabiah Games shared their experiences with newcomers.
Sall, a former rugby player who had to stop playing because of injuries, said taking in other countries’ customs and traditions is a big reason why she enjoys working with the men’s national team. (At the Maccabiah Games, three players from the national team will represent the United States, which will compete in teams of seven and 15 players.)
“Everywhere you go, you’re experiencing a new culture,” said Sall, a 35-year-old who lives in Villanova. “I’m excited to do that in Israel.”
Aden Ohayon, 16, is the son of Israeli parents and has traveled to Israel almost every year of his life. The Philadelphia soccer player also competed at the 2011 Pan American Maccabiah Games in Sao Paulo, Brazil, so he knows to expect fierce competition at the games later this month.
At the Maccabiah Games two years ago, Ohayon said he expected to face teams like those that he played against at the annual JCC Maccabi Games. Opponents were far better than he had thought, and his team lost to Brazil in the finals. This time around, he hopes to win and advance his goal of playing soccer at the college level.
“Representing the United States, it’s an honor,” he said. “It’s an achievement.”
His teammate, Zach Arnold, 17, has never been to Israel before and is looking forward to talking with Israelis around his age.
“Next year, I’m thinking about college; they’re preparing to go to the military,” said Arnold, of Fort Washington. He said he admired Israelis' service and their “national pride.”