Noy Rosenberg, 15, one of the few female hockey players in Israel, has become an unofficial ‘ambassador’ for hockey among Israelis, for the Canada Israel Hockey School, and for Israel when she travels to North America. Noy spent this summer in Ottawa at the Sens hockey camp and at Camp B’nai Brith. Mitch Miller reports.
While Noy Rosenberg, a 15-year-old girl from Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, may not be an official member of Israel’s diplomatic core, she does represent Israel and Israeli youth whenever she travels abroad to play hockey.
This year, Noy has been spending her summer in the Ottawa area: first, as a participant in the Ottawa Senators Summer Hockey Camp in July, then as a camper at Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa.
As a member of the Canada Israel Hockey School (CIHS), headquartered at the Canada Centre in Metula (in the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s partnership region in northern Israel in the Partnership2Gether program), Noy is one of the few female hockey players in the State of Israel. She began playing four years ago and instantly fell in love with Canada’s number one sport.
Canadians first met Noy three years ago when she was featured in The Neutral Zone, a TSN documentary about the CIHS and the challenges and successes of operating a hockey program in Israel, which welcomes boys and girls, Jews and Arabs, Christians, Druze and Muslims.
In the documentary, Noy and her friend, Bisan, a Druze girl from Majdal Shams in the Golan Heights, show us how sports can break down barriers. They met on the ice and are best of friends.
Noy was only 12 years old in the documentary. Since then, she has travelled with CIHS with groups of Israeli hockey players to Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, where she’s been interviewed on network TV and in major newspapers. The Embassy of Israel in Washington was very impressed with how she handled each interview and represented Israel.
This summer’s trip to Ottawa – thanks to the Partnership2Gether program of the Jewish Federation of Ottawa – was Noy’s first hockey trip without her Israeli hockey teammates. She travelled solo to improve her hockey skills and to meet Canadian youth.
From the day Noy arrived in Ottawa, it was time to improve on her already solid hockey skills. She participated in the Ottawa Senators Summer Hockey Camp by day, and in Next Generation HKY on-ice sessions in the evenings. As with any 15-year-old hockey player entering a new program, Noy was nervous at first. She questioned how her skills would match up to the Canadians. Would she be playing with boys and/or girls? Did she have the right equipment, skates and sticks?
From her first practice in Ottawa, Noy had new hockey friends. Her Ottawa peers learned about Israel through friendship with someone their own age who shares a passion for the same sport. They all worked hard on the ice and smiled and laughed. At the end of each day, there were hugs, and Noy gave every player and coach she met a Canada/Israel friendship pin with the flags of both countries.
Partnership2Gether builds and strengthens bridges between Israel and the Diaspora. It was incredible to learn how many youth and their parents at the local arenas didn’t really know much about Israel, beyond what they see in the evening news. They had no idea that some Israelis play hockey, that they speak English, and that there are so many more common bonds with Canadians.
By the time the week of hockey had ended, Noy had grown her circle of friends – they plan to keep in touch via social media – and her new Ottawa hockey buddies now have a real connection to Israel.
In Ottawa, Noy also met Israeli Ambassador Rafael Barak and was interviewed on TSN 1200 radio and CTV.
She went on to have a great time at Camp B’nai Brith of Ottawa, once again representing her kibbutz and our partnership region in Israel’s north.
Noy hasn’t decided yet if she should enter Israel’s diplomatic core or be a professional hockey player.
Mitch Miller, chair of the Soloway Jewish Community Centre, is an organizer and volunteer coach for the Canada Israel Hockey School.