Chance to feel like home (Illustration)
Every Thursday evening they take off their kippah and put on a helmet, replace their daily clothes with hockey uniform and go on the ice rink at the Canada Center in Metula.
They are 300 religious and ultra-Orthodox men from across Israel who decided to establish an ice hockey league of their own, after discovering that the national league holds its games only on Fridays.
Danny Spodak, who made aliyah to Israel from Canada several years ago, was hoping to be able to continue playing his favorite sport in the Holy Land. "I'm an ice hockey fanatic. Unfortunately, when I started inquiring about ice hockey in the country I found out that the local league hold its games on Friday," he said. "Because we're religious, we couldn't participate."
But Spodak did not give up and decided to form a group of religious amateur players that would play hockey on Thursdays. "It started out with very few people. People took out gear that had been stored up in their attic for years.
"Gradually more and more people joined, and now we have some 300 members in our league," Spodak stated proudly.
The players use the internet to coordinate rides from all over the country, and once every two weeks drive up to the northern town to play.
According to Spodak, a lot of the players grew up in the United States and Canada, where ice hockey is practically a national sport. "This was part of our culture, so we decided not to give it up. This isn't a professional league, and people don't play for the medals but for sports. We play for fun. During the game we feel like we're abroad."