The Girls’ High School That Made History
The Katz Oriya High School from the Ohr Torah Stone network reached second place in the national indoor soccer league for high schools and lost in the championship final to Evin Ramat Gan High School
Arutz 7 News, March 22, 2023
In 2019, the Ohr Torah Stone network’s Katz-Oriya High School made history when its team was the first religious girls’ school to reach the championship game in the national high school indoor soccer league.
Today (Wednesday), the school repeated its historic achievement, competing in the final game for the second time.
In Israeli women’s sports, where soccer is not developed and popular – certainly with regard to religious women – the Katz-Oriya team is a refreshing breath of fresh air. The team consists of outstanding female players from the 10th, 11th and 12th grades, some of whom also play in an extracurricular, professional framework.
The initiative to establish the team, which is the only religious team in the league, came about four years ago from the students themselves. They approached the physical education coordinator of the school, Racheli Komar-Aziz, who listened intently to their proposal and then picked up the gauntlet.
“At that time, we had a number of female students who were playing in the Hapoel Katamon team, and as soon as they heard that there was a national high school league for girls in indoor soccer, they really wanted to join and play in it on behalf of the school,” recalls Komar-Aziz. “Even though I had no experience in the field, we decided with the support of school principal Yonat Lemberger to make the move.”
When the team reached the finals for the first time, a new reality emerged out of the transition from the individual realm to the public realm, which raised halachic questions. “We approached Ohr Torah Stone’s President and Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Kenneth Brander, with big questions about our participation in the finals,” says Komar-Aziz. “I was impressed by his response and the way he equated it to Chanukah. He said that just as we publicize the miracle of the holiday with candles, so it is a mitzva to publicize the modest actions of religious girls who play sports and achieve great achievements, and he gave us his blessing. With the support of the network we set off, and since then – the rest is history.”
As part of their activities within the national league, the Katz-Oriya players meet a wide variety of high school teams from across the country – secular girls, Arabs, and others – in what can be defined as an important and intimate meeting for all parties. “When we arrive at secular high schools and they see us in our skirts before we enter the locker room, everyone is always very surprised and it takes them a few minutes to believe and digest that we are both religious and play soccer,” says 11th grader Ita Kunin, the team’s captain. “Many people are occupied with the question of how the two things fit together. At first we were a bit embarrassed, but it’s already natural for us to explain that there is no contradiction between keeping the mitzvot and living a religious lifestyle, and our dreams, aspirations and maintaining physical fitness, which the Torah also encourages.”
Today, as mentioned, the team that was founded just four years ago reached the coveted final championship of the national indoor football league for high schools – for the second time in its history.
In the final game itself, the Katz-Oriya girls lost to the girls from Eban Ramat Gan High School with a score of 0:2, after a close match. And yet, that achievement is great in itself.
Ita Kunin, who led the team to the impressive achievement, talks about the special experience of playing as part of the team and notes: “We take to the field united and with a lot of heart and soul. I think this is the recipe for our success thus far.”
Kunin, who for the past two years has been playing in the Hapoel Jerusalem’s senior girls’ team, emphasizes the value of friendship that stands out in the special team. “We are all very good friends off the court, and although there are sometimes teenage tensions between girls, with us it is the exact opposite. We back each other up and cover for one another when needed, without relation to ego, status or age. I am happy that we were able to bring respect to our school, and in a way to the entire religious sector, which does not stand out at all in the soccer industry. This is our opportunity to put it on the map,” she concludes.