This is the first year that Israel has qualified for tournament. In 2012, its inaugural WBC squad narrowly missed advancing past the qualifiers.

Most of the players are American Jews, among them several current and former major leaguers. World Baseball Classic rules state that players who are eligible for citizenship of a country may play on its team. Jews and their grandchildren, and the grandchildren’s spouses, have the right to become Israeli citizens.

Baseball is little watched or played in Israel. But for the small local baseball community, which includes many American immigrants, Israel’s run in the tournament has been thrilling. The team’s mascot, a life-size doll of an Orthodox Jew called Mensch on the Bench, has highlighted the club’s Jewish identity to the world.