Eldad Rafaeli

The Game that Made Aliyah

“I feel more Jewish than I ever felt before. We want to stand on that podium, see the Israeli flag waving, and bring a medal home to Israel.” (Ryan Lavarnway, player, “Team Israel”)

Ironically, it was one of Israel’s least-popular sports that formed the basis of a shared sense of pride between Israelis and Jews around the world when Team Israel qualified to compete at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

This astonishing achievement was realized thanks to Jewish-American baseball players who accepted Israel’s invitation to don its national team’s uniform. Citing both the warm embrace of the Israeli people and the newfound connection to their Jewish roots, some players even began the process of “making Aliyah”: literally “going up”, or immigrating to Israel. Thus, Israel gained both rising baseball stars and new citizens at the same time. It was, as they say in baseball, a homerun.