Cricket was introduced into the area which is now Israel by the British during the period of military occupation between 1917 and 1922 which ended the rule of the Ottoman Empire. During the period of the British Mandate in Palestine which lasted from 1922 to 1948, the British and Australian military and members of the Mandatory Civil Service regularly played cricket as a recreational activity. Civilian cricket clubs were formed in Jerusalem and Haifa.

With the establishment of Israel in 1948, the occupying forces and the expatriate civil service left and cricket depended for its survival on the enthusiasm of a small number of settlers, particularly from South Africa and India.

Herschelle Gutman during his innings of 75 against France in the 2002 European Championship ©CricketEuropeHerschelle Gutman during his innings of 75 against France in the 2002 European Championship (© CricketEurope)

The first recorded match in the new country took place in 1956 at Tel-Hashomer, between Tel Aviv and Be’erSheva, The latter were captained by Ben Abrahams, an immigrant from Mumbai, who is generally regarded as the founder of Israeli cricket. He continued playing and then umpiring until his death in 1974 aged 71.

Cricket generally struggled, however, because of the very small number of players and the lack of facilities. The combination of economic austerity and compulsory military service meant that few people could either afford or had time to play sport.

The period 1961 to 1966 marked the nadir of Israeli cricket when the game almost died out. However, among the Jewish settlers from Commonwealth countries were a few cricket enthusiasts. Clubs were started where the immigrants settled, including Haifa, Be’erSheva, Ashod, where Indians were involved in the construction of the new port, and Galilee, particularly in the ‘kibbutzim’ of Amiad and Beit Ha’emek.

The Israel team at the 2004 European Division 2 Championship in Belgium ©CricketEuropeThe Israel team at the 2004 European Division 2 Championship in Belgium (© CricketEurope)

In 1966 a national league was started with ten clubs and, in 1968, there was sufficient enthusiasm to form the Israel Cricket Association. Despite the effects of the Arab-Israeli Wars in 1967 and 1973 which increased the length of military service and cut into leisure time still further, the new league prospered.

Under the enthusiasm of its first President, Colonel Maxim Kahan, the Assistant Chief of Police for West Galilee, the ICA encouraged clubs from overseas to visit. In 1972 cricket was included for the first time in the Maccabi Games, a Jewish sports festival held in Israel every four years.

They were elected an Associate member of ICC in 1974 and participated in every ICC Trophy between 1979 and 2001 but with little success. Indeed they only won 3 out of 43 matches and one of those was a walkover when Sri Lanka refused to play them in the 1979 competition.

They embarked on a major youth development project in 2000 and established a national academy in 2003 which then had over 1000 boys and girls.

In European tournaments they endured a tough time in the 1996 Division One competition in Denmark, especially when they were dismissed for just 38 by England NCA. They also suffered an 182-run reverse against Holland and were beaten by seven wickets by both Scotland and Italy. They did manage one win in Division Two against Gibraltar in 1998, while they bettered that in Scotland again in the second tier with wins against Greece and France as they finished fifth. The undoubted highlight was the seven dismissals by Paul Amit against France at Uddingston. He was described as “A big man who covers much ground to take tremendous catches and is no slouch with the bat anywhere in the order. Lawyer who now directs the Israel-Palestinian Nature-Environment Conservation project.”

Herschel Gutman was their stand-out performer as they won two games in 2002 in Northern Ireland, registering wins against Austria and France to finish fourth. Their squad pen pics were as follows:

  • Steve Shein: Captain: Netanya, RHB, OB Age: 25 Newly appointed as captain. A deep thinker about the game. Tactical off spinner and wonderful fielder. 1 European Championships, 1 ICC Trophy.
  • Yefet Nagavakar, Lions Lod, RHB, RM, Age: 26, Hard hitting batsman with much experience, has opened since 1996. 3 European Championships, 2 ICC Trophy.
  • Danny Malyenkar, Tel Aviv, RHB, RM, Age: 22, A new cap and dashing opening batsman who scored heavily in the last domestic season. An outstanding fielder.
  • Steve Leigh, Tel Aviv, RHB, Wicketkeeper, Age: 39, A wicketkeeper and upper order bat who is a splendid team man, always encouraging his team mates.
  • Mehendra Jaiswar, Lions Lod, RHB, Age: 36, An elegant opening batsman without much luck to date. The gentleman of the side, always smiling. 2 European Championships, 1 ICC Trophy.
  • Adrian Vard, Netanya, RHB, Age: 32, A great team man and stylish upper order bat, sound fielder and topped the domestic bowling averages. 2 European Championships, 2 ICC Trophy.
  • Anim Solomon, Lions Lod, RHB, OB, Age: 41, Experienced all-rounder, aggressive bat who bowls nifty off breaks and is a fine slip fielder.
  • Isaac Massil, Lions Lod, RHB, RFM, Age: 32, The leading player of the side - outstanding bat, beautiful bowling action and great fielder. 3 European Championships, 1 ICC Trophy.
  • David Massil, Lions Lod, RHB, RFM, Age: 27, An opening bowler who delights in batting with his brother Isaac. Graceful fielder. 1 European Championships.
  • Hershell Gutman, Tel Aviv, RHB, RFM, Age: 26, Hostile fast bowler who is a brilliant fielder and solid middle order batsman.
  • Jacky Divekar, Dimona C, RHB, RM, Age: 34, A versatile veteran all-rounder in the Ian Botham mould who has swung many a game. 3 European Championships, 3 ICC Trophy.
  • Menashe Wadavkar, Ashdod, RHB, RM, Age: 33, Wonderful team man, aggressive batsman and lively medium-pacer with a good arm. 1 ICC Trophy.
  • Yizrael Ben, Beersheba, RHB, Wicketkeeper, Age: 31, New cap. Wicketkeeper and hard-hitting batsman who plays professional soccer in the desert town of Yervcham.
  • Danny Hotz, Netanya, RHB, Age: 15. The first product of the youth system to reach senior status. Batted continuously for twelve hours as part of European Cricket Day!
  • Stanley Perlman: Manager

They finished bottom of the second division in Belgium in 2004 but Stevie Shein did have a six-wicket haul against Norway in a rare high point in the tournament. The 2006 tournament in Scotland was marred by protests against the team, which saw games being switched to RAF Lossiemouth. They won one match against France and received a walkover against Greece who refused to play after being deducted six points for fielding ineligible players.

The Israel team that won the 2009 European Division 3 tournament in La Manga ©CricketEuropeThe Israel team that won the 2009 European Division 3 tournament in La Manga (© CricketEurope)

There were happier times for them in 2009 as they won the Division Three competition at La Manga, winning four of their five matches to clinch the title on NRR. They beat Belgium (1wkt), Malta (173 runs), Isle of Man (3wkts), Portugal (5wkts) while losing to Spain.

Back in Division Two in 2010 they were in Guernsey, where after opening with three losses they finished strongly beating Gibraltar and Germany. Highlight was a brilliant 120 by Eshkol Solomon against Gibraltar, while young Josh Evans was their leading wicket taker with nine.

David Massil in action against Norway in 2010 ©CricketEuropeDavid Massil in action against Norway in 2010 (© CricketEurope)

Israel Squad: Herschel Gutman (Player Coach), Raymond Aston, Shailesh Bangera, Josh Evans, Daniel Hyman, Eitamar Kahamker, David Massil, Shmuel Mozes, Yaniv Razporker, Gabriel Schachat, Steven Shein, Eshkol Solomon, Eliezer Samson, Raymond Talkar, Ezra Ben Yehuda (Manager).

The switch of emphasis to T20 cricket saw them in Division One in 2011, but the transition wasn’t a happy one as they just avoided the wooden spoon by beating Croatia to claim 11th slot. Their batting struggled while Eliezer Samson with 12 scalps was their leading wicket taker.

Raymond Aston batting against Luxembourg in the 2012 European Division 3 tournament in Corfu ©CricketEuropeRaymond Aston batting against Luxembourg in the 2012 European Division 3 tournament in Corfu (© CricketEurope)

They were in the 2012 Division Two competition in Corfu where after winning all five group games, they were beaten by Spain and the Isle of Man to end fourth. In 2014 they played in the third tier at La Manga, where they gained a third place finish with wins against Finland and Spain. In 2016 they participated in the Division Two event in Stockholm where wins against the Isle of Man and Gibraltar earned them fourth slot.

Their last involvement to date was in 2018 as part of the 18-team Division One event in the Netherlands, which was part of the T20 World Cup qualifying pathway. They were placed in Group C but they only won once – against Gibraltar, with the other highlight being a five wicket haul for Tomer Kahamker 5-25 against Norway.

Eshkol Solomon batting against Guernsey in the 2018 European Division 1 tournament ©Martin GrayEshkol Solomon batting against Guernsey in the 2018 European Division 1 tournament (© Martin Gray)

They haven’t played any international matches in 2019 and 2020, but hopefully it won’t be too long before they return.

This article was first written by Roy Morgan in 2006 and has been updated by CricketEurope.

Israel at International Tournaments
View Tournament2018 European Division 1 (The Netherlands)
View Tournament2016 European Division 2 (Stockholm, Sweden)
View Tournament2014 European Division 3 (La Manga, Spain)
View Tournament2012 European Division 2 (Corfu, Greece)
View Tournament2011 European Division 1 (Jersey & Guernsey)
View Tournament2010 European Division 2 (Guernsey)
View Tournament2009 European Division 3 (La Manga, Spain)
View Tournament2006 European Division 2 (Scotland)
View Tournament2004 European Division 2 (Belgium)
View Tournament2002 European Division 1 (N Ireland)
View Tournament2000 European Division 1 (Scotland)
View Tournament1998 European Division 1 (The Netherlands)
View Tournament1996 European Championship (Copenhagen, Denmark)