Israeli Women's Lacrosse Team Risks Chance of Medal to Avoid Playing on Shabbat

Advance of 10th-seed team guarantees the national squad a Saturday game in Canada at the Women's Lacrosse World Cup.

When members of the Israeli national team threatened to refuse to play at the Women's Lacrosse World Cup in Ontario on Shabbat, it caused some consternation.

Not because of the sporting implications or the historical echoes, but because no one expected the team to get that far in the competition.

But the squad's victory over New Zealand on Wednesday means that no matter what the result in its next match against the host nation Thursday, Israel is scheduled to play on Saturday.

True to their word, the players, nearly all of whom are Jewish college students in the United States, have said that they would rather give up the chance of winning a medal than violate the Sabbath.

“It’s part of our national identity," captain Katie Mazer told the Toronto Star newspaper. “We’re playing for Israel."

In a statement posted on the Israel Lacrosse Association website, executive director Scott Neiss wrote, "We cannot ignore that a reasonably large percentage of our nations’ people, our teams’ players, and our associations’ members and supporters would be offended if we took the field on Shabbat."

Israel booked its place in the Top Eight with a 12-9 victory over New Zealand in Oshawa on Wednesday.

Canada is currently ranked third in the world, but it is the second seed in the playoffs after upsetting the favored Australians in pool play. Israel is unranked and, playing in its first-ever World Cup, is 10th seed in the playoffs.

New Zealand drew first blood at 2:20, with Sarah Butler scoring on a free position shot. But Israel answered back with eight consecutive goals to take command of the match. Jenna Block started the rally at 3:56, catching the ball from teammate Kim Dubansky who spun past her defender to make the perfect feed.

Ali Curwin scored a free-position goal moments later, and the Israelis were off to the races. Curwin scored four times in the eight-goal run.

The Kiwis stormed back with three straight scores to cut the deficit 8-4, but the blue-and-white answered right back with another three-goal run. A late rally by New Zealand hit a wall when Israel took possession and stalled out the remaining 2:30 in the match.

Curwin was named Player of the Match for her four-goal, one-assist performance.

Gary Keys / Gameday Photography