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Champions of Unity

Champions of Unity

Fifteen boys see beyond their ideological boxes and win the gold.


Herbert Hoover, the 31st President of the United States, once remarked, "Children are our most valuable natural resource." The summer of 2009 has proven this statement to be true for the State of Israel.

Many months ago, a difficult process began as 11 and 12-year-olds from all over Israel were nominated by their local coaches to tryout for the honor of representing Israel as members of the national little league baseball team. In the end, 15 were chosen to travel to Europe where Israel has never won a baseball tournament at any level.

At first glance, this team seemed doomed for failure, simply based on the players' backgrounds. In a country polarized by the ideological boxes how could this group possibly succeed? The team was comprised of secular boys from kibbutzim, boys with national religious backgrounds, and even boys from more haredi leaning schools. Since, unity is required to produce the teamwork necessary to win at all levels, on paper this team seemed bound to repeat Israel's past failures to emerge victorious from baseball tournaments abroad.

They were Jews. They were unified as one.

But something remarkable happened. As practice began, these children saw beyond the boxes that we adults have painted them into. It didn't matter to them whether another boy wore a kippa; they were Jews playing for Israel. Among those who wore kippot it didn't matter to any of them whether one was wearing knit, leather, or black velvet; they were Jews playing for Israel. It didn't matter that some boys had long hair and others long sideburns, hassidic style. They were a team. They were playing with "Israel" sewn across the front of their jerseys. They were Jews. They were unified as one.

Once all the labels and barriers were put aside, they went to Italy, dominated their games, and returned to Israel two weeks ago with the gold medal.

Fifteen 11 and 12 year old Israeli boys went to Europe and stood proudly in their blue and white uniforms and holding a large, Israeli flag as they were presented with the first place trophy. They were champions.

These children taught us how much we can accomplish if we would simply put our differences aside and unite as the Jewish people and as citizens of Israel, regardless of how we look externally and our level of religious observance.

It has not been an easy year for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. War. Terrorism. Poverty. Lack of water. Worldwide Anti-Semitism. A soldier in captivity. Widely publicized criminal acts. And more. We have no shortage of problems facing our nation with no realistic solutions in sight. But all Jews look to Rosh Hashana, the approaching new year, with hopes and dreams that our plight will improve.

Perhaps it is time for us to try a different approach and follow the example of "our most valuable natural resource" and internalize what our national little league team put on display during their recent championship run. Maybe we should try to stop focusing on that which makes us different and treat all fellow Jews with the dignity and honor they deserve.

If we begin to start acting like we are one unit and on the same team, we will set the Jewish people and the State of Israel towards accomplishments of championship proportions.

September 6, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 6

(6) jb, September 8, 2009 3:56 PM


We definetly do have a common goal that we must all remind ourselves of, even if we see things differently. Though this objective may be harder to grasp, since it doesn't require the defeat of an opposing team, we still must admit that it is there. The Torah tells us in Parashas Ki Savo (26:18-19) that we are to be an "am segulah" (a treasured people) and an "am kadosh" (a holy people). The way the Torah advises us to accomplish these titles is by following in Hashem's ways. A question one can ask is whether this accomplishment is for the individual or for the entire nation to acheive? An answer might be that it takes each individual to work on him/herself, and when these individuals band together as a nation we will accomplish this goal. WE DO HAVE A PURPOSE TO COME TOGETHER, all we have to do is open our eyes to it. We must remember to always see our brothers and sisters as Jews, just as these boys did, and unite as a nation especially in these hard times. A happy and sweet New Year to everyone.

(5) leah, September 7, 2009 7:58 AM

we can learn from our children

I was privileged to watch an exhibition game played by this wonderful team. The most poignant moment took place off the field when three of the players were leaning against the fence watching a teammate at bat. Two secular boys with long ponytails had their arms around the middle boy who had peyot down to his shoulder. The sight brought tears to my eyes as I realized that these children set an example for all Cllal Yisrael. i do believe that Ha-Shem smiled down at them and because of their unity they took home the gold from IItaly.

(4) Marsha, September 7, 2009 12:18 AM

What a beautiful story!

How have I not seen this before, didn't it make any of the Jewish news sources? Reminds me of the story of the 1980 US Olympic Men's ice hockey team...the coach took a bunch of great players who'd never played together and turned them into a Gold Medal winning team. Kol Hakavod to Team Israel!

(3) Deborah Bach, September 6, 2009 5:46 PM

I don't have the time to listen to every piece of news, but my impression from where I'm watching Israel from Haifa and listening only to Hebrew radio is that this country has made great strides towards unity is the last few years. It seems to me that some lessons have been learned. Thank God. I hope we don't forget too fast!

(2) dorothy, September 6, 2009 4:49 PM

No common goal????

Basya, to start with, we could have some respect for other Jews and their levels of observance or non-observance. The common goal should be nationhood, not trying define other people's lifestyles for them. You may feel strongly about the building of settlements, or about keeping a parking lot open Saturdays, but is any of that worth dissolving the Jewish nation? This I think is Lipman's point.

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