With fewer than three minutes remaining in regulation time, Jewish striker Tomer Hemed’s team, the A-League Wellington Phoenix, was trailing 2-1, and it appeared they’d drop the game to their opponents, Melbourne City. Then, in a deft feat of athleticism, Hemed slid past a defender and deflected a teammate’s centering kick past a leaping goaltender for the game-tying goal, salvaging a draw and a point in the standings for his team.

But what stayed with spectators far longer than the goal itself was what Hemed did next.

He reached into his jersey, took out a small white kippah (yarmulke), covered his eyes with his right hand, and said the Shema, Judaism’s central prayer.

As rockets continue to rain down on Israeli cities amid the worst fighting in the region since 2014, Hemed’s show of Jewish pride brought inspiration to millions and has gone viral on social media. Hemed posted a video of his celebration on Instagram, captioned “My heart is with you. Praying for PEACE!”

Hemed’s proud display of Judaism on field follows in the proud tradition of many Jewish athletes who have publicly demonstrated their faith, including the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax. In an act that has inspired many in the decades since, Koufax famously refused to pitch in Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because the game fell out on Yom Kippur.

The RebbeRabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memoryspoke about Koufax’s decision not to pitch and about the tefillin that Chabad-Lubavitch Rabbi Moshe Feller had gifted him the day after Yom Kippur. “That day the pitcher lost the game. ... But at the end, it turned out that he won the World Series, and on his table there were the tefillin,” said the Rebbe.

And 56 years later, in a stadium in Melbourne, Jewish pride shone forth once more to millions around the world.

Hemed with a teammate after donning a kippah (Photo: Tomer Hemed/Instagram)
Hemed with a teammate after donning a kippah (Photo: Tomer Hemed/Instagram)