My name is Shai Maaravi, I am from Israel, I am a hockey player and I am currently a freshman at Duquesne University studying in the School of Business.
My journey to Pittsburgh is not a typical one, I am here because of the opportunities that the sport of hockey has given to me. The connections that I have made and the people that I have met have opened doors not available to many Israelis.
I began playing hockey at age 7 at the only regulation size rink in the country in Metulla. It changed me. I learned to play hockey at the Canada Israel Hockey School alongside Arabs, Druze and Christians and learned that we needed to put aside all of our differences in religion, language and nationality to focus on the game of hockey.
Hockey gave me the opportunity to travel outside of Israel for training camps and competitions. It gave me the desire to learn English, and the dream of someday moving to North America to study and play hockey.
In 2013, at age 16, when most Israeli kids are giving up on their dream to play hockey, I was named captain of the U18 Israel National Team where we won a gold medal in Turkey. In 2014, I was captain of the U18 Team again when we won silver in Bulgaria. I also played for the Senior National Team in 2013, winning gold for Israel and playing in 2015 as well in South Africa. In 2016 I played U20 in Mexico and won a Bronze Medal in Mexico for Israel in the Senior division. I played for the Senior National Team in 2017 in New Zealand where we won Bronze and in 2018 in Spain winning another Bronze medal for Israel.
In 2015 I was called to duty for the Israel Defense Force. I was designated an Elite Athlete in the IDF which gave me the opportunity to serve my country while continuing to train abroad in Pittsburgh, practice regularly and represent the State of Israel internationally in the IIHF in the sport of hockey.
I was released from my service in the IDF in June 2018. I was able to use the connections I had made in Pittsburgh to enroll as a freshman at Duquesne University and also play hockey for the Duquesne Men’s Hockey Team.
As a 21 year old freshman I have the unique perspective to understand the opportunities that I have been given by the sport of hockey and those around me who have believed in me. I put my life on hold to serve my country and because of that I have I greater appreciation for what is truly important.
I want to give back. It is important to me to be able to give others in Israel the same opportunities to change their lives through the sport of hockey that I was given. And if I can change the narrative in the process by providing positive role models, combatting anti-Israel sentiment, Anti-Semitism, bias and hate – Then I will have succeeded.