Naomi Eytan has been banned from playing in the Israel cricket under -19 team in next month's Maccabiah because she is a girl.
The 14-year-old Tel Aviv resident has been a permanent feature in the Israel junior team over the past year but has been told by Maccabiah officials that mixed gender teams contravene the regulations of the Jewish Olympics.
Naomi's mother Carmel Eytan, who is spokesperson of Na’amat the Women's Labour Zionist Movement, which fights for gender equality, says she plans taking the matter to court, if the Maccabiah organisers do not relent.
Speaking to the JC, Naomi Eytan said: "I've been playing cricket since third grade and over the past year I’ve broken into the national junior team and I was really looking forward to the Maccabiah and representing my country.
“When they told me I cannot play because I’m a girl I was surprised, then disappointed, then very angry.”
“There isn’t even a girl’s team I can play for. My mother has always taught me that as a girl I can do everything that boys can. But it seems my mother lied. The sky is not the limit for girls."
The Israel Cricket Association is backing Ms. Eytan and has asked the Maccabiah organisers to show flexibility.
Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady and the European Cricket Council have also reportedly expressed support for Ms. Eytan’s cause.
Ms. Eytan’s coach Yonni Sidelsky says he is stunned by her exclusion. “I have been working with her for seven years. She is a good bowler who has registered wickets in the national league against men. She is an aggressive batswoman, left-handed and a good fielder and is not scared of the ball. She is very determined in everything she does.
“I travelled with her and the Tel Aviv team to London recently where we played some games and she blew me away with her maturity, bravery and leadership qualities.”
Maccabiah chairman Amir Peled is adamant that Naomi Eytan cannot play. “Just a couple of years ago an Israeli umpire was killed when he was hit by a ball,” he told the JC.
When asked if he is suggesting that cricket is too dangerous for girls but not boys he added, “I didn’t say that. We have our regulations and we cannot allow mixed teams.”
Olympic Committee of Israel Secretary General Gili Lustig said: “We cannot change regulations at the last minute. We can discuss whether mixed gender cricket teams should be allowed, but it is too late for this Maccabiah. Maybe for the next Maccabiah.”
The Maccabiah Games open on July 4 when, with or without Naomi Eytan, there will be a record 10,000 participants from 85 countries competing in 41 sports.