Israel has its very own international ice hockey team — who would have believed it?
The Israeli team recently visited Cape Town to participate in the International Ice Hockey Federation Division 3 Competition, which was held at Grand West in April.
In order to support encourage the Israeli team, who we assumed were the underdogs, a group of Capetonians made our way to Grand West to cheer them on.
To our surprise, six incredibly athletic young men togged in their blue and white kit had their first game against South Africa, leaving most of us with the dilemma of who to support. When South Africa scored, we yelled in support and when Israel scored, we also yelled in support! As the match drew to a close, the score was levelled at a draw and the game continued to sudden death. To our amazement, Israel won!
The moment when everyone stood to attention as the Israeli national anthem, HaTikvah, was sung is a moment we will never forget. All of us felt a surge of pride as we stood singing, our Israeli flags waving in the air.
Our presence made a huge impact on the Israeli players. They never expected to receive any kind of acknowledgement or support, or to see so many Israeli flags in the crowd.
Thanks to the hospitality of Nilly and Tzvi Baruch, as well as members of the South African Zionist Federation, Maccabi, the South African Jewish Board of Deputies and the Israeli Mishlachat, the players were treated to a wonderful braai, where friendships and connections were formed.
After the victory against South Africa, the Israeli team went on to win all their remaining matches, beating Luxemborg, Mongolia, Greece and Turkey. This placed them in the final of the competition, where they faced Turkey. The final was very well supported by our local community, with a large number of youth movement members present.
Once again, Israel did us proud and gave us reason to sing and cheer as they went on to win the final and be named overall winners of the International Ice Hockey Federation Division 3 Competition, 2011. Pride is a very small word for the incredible feeling we all felt as we stood and sang Hatikvah to the crowds of Cape Town.