The Israeli women's lacrosse team delivered an inspiring lesson in sportsmanship to the world
The Israeli women's lacrosse team delivered an inspiring lesson in sportsmanship to the world.
The team competed in the U19 Lacrosse Women's World Championship in Peterborough, Canada. In the qualifiers against the Kenyan national team, Israel easily won 13-4. But instead of rejoicing in their victory, the Israeli players left the game worried. They understood that they had enjoyed an unfair advantage: while the Israeli players wore the latest-model sneakers with cleats, their Kenyan opponents wore simple gym shoes.
After the game, three young Israeli players called their parents to ask if they could help buy shoes for the Kenyan players. Without the proper cleats in their shoes, the Kenyan players slipped on the muddy areas of the field of play. One Israeli player in particular, Ella Duvdevani, was able to help out. His father, Mijael, has a pediatric clinic in the United States. He was concerned about the long-term damage Kenyan players could suffer to their feet from playing in the wrong shoes.
That night, Michael Duvdevani called the team coaches, committee members and a few other parents and soon enough the parents of the Israeli players got together to buy new shoes for the Kenyan team. They asked the coach of the Kenyan team for a list of the shoe sizes each player needed and asked her to keep it secret until the next day.
It wasn't easy to find so many special sneakers so quickly. The Israeli team went to a specialized store that stayed open for much of the night and ordered the shoes, asking for them to be delivered quickly.
By the next morning, the Israelis had managed to buy shoes for each member of the Kenyan team. Each member of the Israeli team presented their Kenyan counterpart with a bag containing a new pair of sneakers. It was a very emotional moment. The players from Israel and Kenya hugged each other and cried together.
The bond that was formed is lasting. Lielle Assayag, archer, said: “This is what I will remember twenty years from now: my friends. The old and the new."
The athletes did not seek publicity, but the Kenyan Lacrosse team posted a video on Twitter of the Israeli women delivering new shoes to the Kenyan team the day after the game. “Yesterday we played @Israel_Lacrosse and we didn't have any cleats… today Israel surprised the whole team on the edge of the court with brand new cleats!” the Kenyan team announced.
Despite the fact that the Kenyan women's lacrosse team only has a few hundred followers, the emotional video went viral. In a few days hundreds of thousands of people saw it.
After donning the new shoes, Kenya won the second game of the championship, beating Belgium 16-9. "1 game with new blocks = 1 win!" they posted on Twitter, adding: "You can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone."
That comment echoes Hillel's statement in Pirkei Avot: “In a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader” (Pirkei Avot 2:6). We all have to leave a mark wherever we find ourselves. As the Israeli women's lacrosse team just demonstrated, sometimes even a small gesture can make a huge difference in the lives of others.