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A group of North American expats in Israel gets together every Sunday to ignore the world and play softball

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Meir with David Levy while playing baseball in Petach Tikvah, Israel after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, allowing them to finally play| Photo: Meir Balofsky

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In case you were wondering, this year, my batting average is better than MLB All-Star Mike Trout, and the Blue Jays starting third baseman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. It is, however,  in a league for which a pitcher’s earned run average (ERA) of under 20 is low enough to celebrate.

In this world of pandemic concerns and future uncertainty, Sundays have become a haven of normalcy for a bunch of us Canadian and American ex-pats living in Israel. Recently, our spirits were lifted when the quarantine restrictions eased up slightly, allowing us to finally emerge from lockdown, hit the field and resume our weekly softball games.

Our “league” is comprised of players of all ages – retirees to teens – some who made Aliyah decades ago, and some who came so recently that when they’re asked, “Where are you from?” they still cite their city back in the U.S. or Canada. The only entry requirement for our league is knowing the rules of baseball and being a mensch.

The importance of sports does indeed sound relatively trivial in a world where people fear for their health and their lives, especially in a time where families have been known to split apart due to virulent differences in political opinions.  Between the issues of national health and national security, it’s not uncommon for people to lose their temper, be it in person or behind a screen.  This can make for some very challenging living conditions no matter where one is in the world. Here is where sports like baseball or softball can change things – or at the very least, silence them for a few hours a week. When we’re playing ball on teams that were picked based on where the week’s captain threw his glove, our teammates become our new best friends because they called our name off of an arbitrary list. We symbolically live or die – win or lose – together because it’s our team and they’re our teammates.

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We celebrate and congratulate even the most minor of achievements – a walk, a bunt, a double play, or some good hustle – and we’ll support each other with “You’ll get ‘em next time!” for any and all mistakes and effort. On Sundays, while we wear our gloves and hats and hold a softball in our hands, we don’t care about or discuss politics or world events. And after the game, if we do go there, for whatever reason, we still do so as teammates, respectfully. I may be more inclined to listen to my first-baseman and their center-fielder, and see their point of view because I see them as more than a representative of a political position.

When the Raptors went on their championship run last spring, while I celebrated from Israel, I was captivated by the team’s unifying effect on all of Canada. Strangers on the streets became best friends. A person wearing a Raptors jersey got an automatic fist-bump or a respectful and knowing tip of the cap. I remember many games when celebrations included high-fiving complete strangers. On occasion, when I go to Jerusalem, I wear my Leafs jersey, knowing that I’ll make new friends while walking the streets of our eternal capital. Even if I meet a Habs fan (Heaven forfend!), our rivalry would at most be akin to that of Beit Hillel and Beit Shammai – in other words, respectful and “typically Canadian”. This is the unifying power of sports. It can potentially heal a nation, if only for a few hours a week. So, while we patiently wait and pray for a healthy tomorrow, you’ll find me, on Sunday evenings, in Petach Tikvah with the most accomplished and powerful baseball players of 2020.

Meir Balofsky is originally from Toronto and moved to Israel in 2004 with his wife and three children. Meir has maintained close ties to the Toronto community and has returned each summer to join the staff at Camp Moshava Canada in each year of its operation since making Aliyah. Meir currently resides in Ramat Gan with his family.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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