Israeli athletes of all ages continue to make amazing strides in the international arena. Over the last two weeks, Israeli teams took home the gold with a first place win at the 40th World Rhythmic Gymnastics Championships in Spain and in the Under-17 first International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Flag Football European Youth Championships in Grosseto, Italy.
The gymnastics success, with Israel beating out China for the gold, confirmed Israel’s place in the 2024 Paris Olympics. The win follows the team’s silver medal at last year’s competition in Sofia, Bulgaria and represents the second time Israel has won a team medal. In the 2020 Olympics held in Tokyo in 2021 (due to the pandemic) an Israeli rhythmic gymnast, Linoy Ashram won a gold medal while in 2022 in Tel Aviv, Daria Atamanov won the all-around gold in the European Championships, showing that Rhythmic Gymnastics continues to be a strong sport for Israel.
On the Flag Football field, the Israeli Under-17 Boys National Team won the gold medal after edging out the host Italy in the semifinals and beating Serbia in the championship game. What makes the victory even more significant is that the Israeli team forfeited a game that was scheduled to be played on Shabbat. Israel had appealed in advance to have the game rescheduled but was unsuccessful.
Despite that, and even with the forfeited score counting as a 35-0 loss, Israel’s other victory margins were enough to advance them in the tournament allowing their skill to bring home the gold. Israel’s two other teams, the Under-17 Girls and Under-17 Co-ed team, who also forfeited the Shabbat games, each came in 5th, just missing out on the semifinal round. The girls team, had they played on Shabbat had a good chance of advancing to the playoffs as well.
According to Steve Leibowitz, President of the American Flag Football League in Israel, “The quest for a gold medal in IFAF Flag Football has been ongoing for 15 years and Team Israel finally reached the top of the podium…In recent years, with the help of the Kraft Family and Ayelet non-Olympic Sports Federation, we invested heavily in our youth programs. We see that it has paid off… With Flag Football well positioned for inclusion in the 2028 LA Olympics, we are already working to get our teams there…This was a sign that we are moving in the right direction.”
This gold medal in the Under-17 competition, followed the bronze medal won by Israel’s senior men’s team at the Flag Football European Championships last month in Limerick, Ireland, appearing to confirm Mr. Leibowitz’s prediction.
Lastly, Mr. Leibowitz added that they will continue to push for no scheduled Shabbat games for Team Israel as he believes strongly that the Israeli league must do everything it can to allow religious players to participate as well. Here’s wishing all of Israel’s athletes continued success!