Iroquois Nationals arrive in Israel for World Lacrosse Championships after passport issues resolved
Team's 1st game against the United States takes place Thursday
The Iroquois Nationals team arrived in Israel Thursday to compete in the World Lacrosse Championships after initially experiencing passport problems while trying to board a flight in Toronto earlier in the week.
The team, which represents the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, cleared customs in Tel Aviv at 11:30 a.m. local time, hours before they're slated to take on the United States for "the game of the year," according to the team's executive director Ansley Jemison.
"It's definitely a relief," said Jemison.
"We're just excited to be here, to be able to play lacrosse, and represent our people. As originators of the game, to see a new place."
The Federation of International Lacrosse's (FIL) 2018 Men's World Lacrosse Championships starts Thursday and runs until July 21 in Netanya, Israel. Forty-six national teams will compete in the 10-day event. The Iroquois Nationals are the reigning bronze medallists.
The team comprises 23 players from the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations. They experienced passport procedural issues while trying to leave Canada for Israel on their Haudenosaunee passports Monday night.
Haudenosaunee Confederacy passports have been around since 1923. Members in Canada use them for international travel, though they are not officially recognized by Canada as valid travel identification.
On Monday, the Israeli government asked for a letter from Canada assuring that the team would be allowed to leave Canada before it would issue visas.
Cleared for travel
The team ended up spending a day at Six Nations of the Grand River getting in some extra practice while they waited to get the "green light" to board another flight.
Jemison said they were alerted by members of the host organizing committee in Israel that their travel issues had been resolved and they boarded a flight out of Toronto at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
"FIL and the local organizing committee have worked with both the Canadian and Israeli governments to resolve the travel restrictions involving the Iroquois Nationals leaving North America," said FIL CEO Jim Scherr in a statement.
"It is important for the sport of Lacrosse to have the top three returning medallists from the 2014 World Championship in Netanya."
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada did not return multiple requests for comment about how the issue was resolved.
Jemison said the team is ready to compete.
"The practice we had in Six Nations was pretty solid, everyone is in pretty good shape, and we're pretty excited about it," said Jemison.
"We have a good core group, great leadership, and I think it's just a matter of staying hydrated, keeping these guys fed well and some rest."
For Kenneth Deer, secretary for the Mohawk Nation at Kahnawake and a member of the Haudenosaunee External Relations Committee, the issue is water under the bridge for now.
"All we know is that the team was allowed to board and they were very well welcomed when they arrived in Israel," said Deer.
"Right now, the issue is not to focus on the passport. The issue right now is to focus on the team. The team got there safely. They're ready to play; they are excited to be where they are and are looking forward to the game against the United States tonight."