Israeli women’s lacrosse team vows to lay down sticks for Sabbath

TORONTO (JTA) — Israel’s women’s lacrosse team, in contention for a world championship, is prepared to forfeit the gold medal game rather than play on the Jewish Sabbath.

The team, in Oshawa, Ontario, for the sport’s World Cup tournament, has signaled it will refuse to play on Saturday,  the Toronto Star reported.

The Israelis (5-1)  will play second-seeded Canada (3-1) in the playoff round on Thursday after defeating New Zealand, 12-9, the previous day to guarantee themselves a spot in the top eight rankings.

Win or lose Thursday and Friday, Israel would have to play on Saturday. The players, mostly from the U.S. college ranks, have vowed not to break with Jewish tradition and said they will forfeit, even if it’s the gold medal game.

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

Attacker Jenny Block said, “We’re a team. That’s a sacrifice we’re all willing to make. This is about more than lacrosse. It’s about more than a game.”

Team Israel is trying to arrange an exhibition match on Friday before sundown against the team it would have played Saturday. It won’t be known until the conclusion of Friday’s games who Israel will be scheduled to play on Saturday and for what position.

The team had asked for a schedule change, offering three alternatives: to play Friday before sundown; Saturday after sundown; or Sunday morning. The Israelis also offered to pay the expenses of any teams out of pocket for the accommodation, the Star noted.

The request was denied by the Federation of International Lacrosse, the sport’s governing body. FIL President Stan Cockerton said the federation had no problem accommodating the Israelis’ request for round-robin play to ensure no Saturday games, but he said the playoffs are different, as they are governed by a specific timetable for insurance and game times. The latest scheduled start is 8 p.m.

“We were able to reschedule [the round robin], so we’re not insensitive to the issue,” Cockerton told the paper. “But for this coming Saturday, we have a set format. “We cannot accommodate them.”

Few expect the Israelis to be in Saturday’s gold medal game. To get there, they would have to beat Canada, one of the heavyweights in international lacrosse, and then on Friday beat the winner of Thursday’s Scotland-Australia game. The top-seeded and undefeated Americans are expected to be in the championship match.

Israel’s team did not exist for the previous World Cup.