Israel Forfeits Final World Cup Game, Won't Play on Sabbath
Israel went 4-1 in pool play and played host Canada tough in its FIL debut.
© Jay Johnston/Game Day Photography
OSHAWA, Ontario -- While the headlines at the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women's World Cup have, as always, belonged to the Americans and other top nations jockeying for position at the top of the bracket, one of the sub-stories has been the solid play of Team Israel, a first-year program that went 4-1 in pool play and trailed by just two at halftime against Canada.
As the sun set Friday night, however, their tournament was done, as the team has opted to stick with its decision not to play on the Jewish Sabbath, which goes from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday.
"We just made this decision early as an organization," said Scott Neiss, Israel Lacrosse's executive director since its inception in 2010. "A large portion of [Israel's] population, this is something that's important to them. It's not a religious issue, it's a national identity issue."
The Ministry of Sport for Israel allows individual teams and athletes to make their own decisions about whether or not they choose to play on the holy day.
The Federation of International Lacrosse rescheduled a pool play game for Israel that had originally been planned for Saturday, July 13, allowing them to play Hong Kong on Monday – an off day for both teams – instead of forcing a forfeit. For the tournament's final day, however, the FIL declined to allow either of the alternatives to playing a scheduled Saturday game that Israel had suggested – playing their final placement game on Friday evening before sunset or Saturday evening after sunset.
Moving a placement game to Friday evening would have required both Israel and its opponent to play two games in one day, which is against FIL bylaws. Moving the game later on Saturday would have required the game be played after the gold medal game, which is the official close of the tournament, possibly during the post-tournament banquet that occurs Saturday evening.
When asked about the Israeli decision to forfeit its placement game on Friday, an FIL official stated that the organization was sticking with its decision to accommodate the pool play round but not the final game, but declined further comment.
It's an unfortunate end for a team that played better than many would have expected. Of the newcomers to the World Cup, Israel won more games than Sweden and Latvia combined, advancing to the quarterfinals and playing Canada tough in the first half before the host pulled away in the second half.
"We're very proud of this team. What they've achieved and how they've bonded is just incredible," Neiss said. "We really achieved all our goals, to come here for the first time and finish in the top eight. That's just incredible for a first-time team."
The goal going forward for Israel Lacrosse, according to Weiss, is to build from the ground up in Israel and bring an entirely home-grown team to the European Championships in two years. Right now there are approximately 100 players based in southern Israel, with approximately half of the national team hailing from the country and the other half based in U.S. Their ultimate goal is to bring some of those players back to Israel to coach and help grow the game among the children living in the country rather than rely on American ex-pats with Israeli ties.
"That's one of the great things about this time – the girls are inspired," Weiss said. "We have some of them that aren't Israel-based already committed to coming and living in the country for a year and helping coach, and that's going to help us develop the sport faster."