Friendships abound as girls fight for rebounds

Due to overwhelming enrollment demands, this year’s camp has been relocated to the much larger and improved facilities.

Girls basketball (photo credit: Courtesy/Shiraliga)
Girls basketball
(photo credit: Courtesy/Shiraliga)
For Talya Cohen of Beit El, there are very few opportunities to meet other girls her age with similar interests and backgrounds. Thanks to the Shiraliga Basketball League (a basketball league run entirely by women for women), Talya and hundreds like her meet new people on a regular basis, and many friendships have developed as a result.
Just this past week, for example, three of the six divisions in the Shiraliga were active in the last tournament of the school year, and more than 350 religious girls from ages 9-18 played in 75 games for 32 teams in the Malcha Arena. The teams, representing their respective schools, practice all year for various tournaments, and this particular event marked the final championship.
Many of these young women come from as far away as Gush Etzion, Modiin, Ofra, Beit El, and Kochav Yaakov to play in tournaments; these competitions offer them an ideal opportunity to meet girls from similar backgrounds.
No other activities between these schools currently exist that allow for the interaction of these students on a schoolwide basis.
With the exception of Shira Amsel, few believed that there was any interest for religious girls to be active in sports, particularly basketball, and compete regularly against each other.
Many of the religious schools were highly skeptical, and reluctant to even let Shira through the door to present her program – at first. But Shira herself (the starting center for the Hapoel Jerusalem women’s basketball team for the past six years) had gone through the religious school system in Jerusalem and felt the great need for women’s scholastic sports.
Her dream was ultimately realized in the creation of the Shiraliga. Once the schools gave the Shiraliga a chance, they were blown away at the students’ enthusiasm and competitive desire.
Six years after its birth, the Shiraliga has expanded to include more than 60 teams for women ranging in age from elementary school to retirement.
The Shiraliga has been so successful that last year’s inaugural summer sports camp, Liga Camp, attracted over 120 young athletes.
Due to overwhelming enrollment demands, this year’s camp has been relocated to the much larger and improved facilities of the new sports complex at the Keshet School in Katamon, Jerusalem.
There, religious boys and girls will learn and play sports such as basketball, soccer, volleyball, American football, tennis, baseball, hockey, swimming and more – all from professional coaches.
Despite these recent achievements, Shira’s enthusiasm and energy has her dreaming about doing more. She still believes that sports in Israel, and women’s sports in particular, are not where they should be.
Amsel has received many inquiries about expanding to more communities and venues, but she has been limited due to the difficulty of finding suitable women coaches to instruct and prepare new teams for competition.
Anyone interested in finding out more about Shiraliga, Liga Camp or coaching opportunities should please visit the website at