A combat soldier in the Kfir Infantry Brigade, Sgt. Lee Rosenthal, is also one of the best bridge players worldwide. Just last week the Israeli bridge team placed second in the world bridge championship for competitors under the age 21 held in Taicang, China a week ago. The skillful players overcame teams from China, Italy and dozens of other countries, defeated only by the Dutch team by a single point. Among the team members are two IDF soldiers, completing their full service.
“We were extremely proud of our achievement,” said Sgt. Rosenthal to the IDF Website after winning in the world championship of one of the most popular card games. “This was my first world championship, and I hope to participate again in the next competition that will be held in two years.”
Upon enlisting in the IDF, Sgt. Rosenthal was offered a special course in the army especially designed for outstanding athletes. The course combines the fulfilling military service without sacrificing the athlete’s skills and potential, ensuring they will be able to continue training. In spite of the tempting offer, Sgt. Rosenthal chose to serve in an infantry unit. “The moment I put on the uniform I knew I wanted to be a combat soldier,” he said. “I couldn’t imagine being the kind of person who forgoes an opportunity to gives his maximum. I enlisted to the Kfirm Infantry Brigade even though I knew it might affect my game.”
About a year ago, Sgt. Rosenthal understood that he cannot give up the game and decided to recruit a fellow bridge enthusiast and IDF soldiers who serves in the C4I or Teleprocessing Corps. “I called him up, he thought I was crazy. He said that we are both serving in serious, demanding positions that make training at a national level virtually impossible,” he explained. Though the two did not give up, “Instead of going to sleep we would train individually and would volunteer to stay on base on weekends so that we would be allowed to leave for competitions. I would sleep less than four hours a night and continue training,” added Sgt. Rosenthal.
The effort was definitely worth it, as both dedicated soldiers made it to the national Israeli bridge team. Many of their fellow combat soldiers were surprised to hear of their success, “Most people think bridge is a game only elderly women play, though this isn’t true at all. This sport is extremely popular among Israeli youth,” he said. Sgt. Rosenthal’s commanders and fellow soldiers are proud of the gifted card player.
Sgt. Rosenthal leads a double life, completing a meaningful military service as a combat soldier as well as playing a competitive sport at an international level. “I believe that if you want something and are willing to put in the effort, you can succeed. You must know that you will have to sacrifice things,” he stressed, “but it is definitely possible and worth it. To me this brings both personal and national pride.”