One Sunday evening last month, two 18-year-old girls were kicking punching bags at the Jerusalem sports center, located beneath the stands at Teddy Stadium.
Nili Block, whose family is American, long-limbed, lean and muscular, in a blue tank top and black sweatpants, was hunched over a red bag. Her ponytail waving wildly, strands of hair plastered to her perspiring face, she flayed it with her legs in a blur of furious precision. On the other side of the gym, Sarah Avraham, tall and athletic, ran to a punching bag, hugged it and leaned her head against it, then leaped up and kneed it ruthlessly.
“Careful! Careful!” the trainer, Eddie Yusupov warns him. “Come on, Nili − push, push, push!” Block is in fact injured and is not supposed to exercise her legs for another week, but when Yusupov shouts “Sprint!” she lowers her head and races for the wall.
Sarah Avraham is the 2013 Israeli champion in Thai boxing for women and also now the world champion in her weight class (57-63 kilos). At the same time − at the 10th Amateur / Pro-Am Muay Thai Championships in Bangkok last March − Nili Block became the world champion in the flyweight class (50.5-53.5 kilos), and afterward also in kickboxing.
Until about a month ago, on top of their training the two also attended an ulpana, a high school for Orthodox girls. Avraham immigrated from India four years ago with her family, who are converts to Judaism. Block’s dream is to take part in the Olympic Games of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
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This story "2 Orthodox Women Aim for Boxing Glory" was written by Naomi Darom (Haaretz).