MARYSVILLE — It was about 8:45 p.m. on May 11 and the ASA Tel Aviv University SC women’s professional soccer team was walking off the field following practice when Trina Davis heard the sirens, looked up and saw a fireball streaking across the sky.
Thus began a week of cowering in shelters, calling embassies and canceled flights that turned the Marysville Pilchuck High School graduate’s soccer adventure in Israel into a war documentary. But Davis is home safe now, and though she’s still recovering from the trauma, she’s grateful to have survived.
“I was super stressed and frustrated,” said Davis. “Now being home I feel safe and relieved.”
Davis, 19, is a star for the Fiji women’s national team, and it was through one of her Fiji coaches, Christophe Gamel, that the opportunity to play professionally in Israel arrived. Davis signed with ASA Tel Aviv in February, becoming the first Fijian woman to sign with a pro team. Davis departed for Israel on Feb. 26 and three days later was in ASA Tel Aviv’s starting lineup.
“We had no concerns about her safety, none at all,” said Davis’ mother, Vikashni. “We knew we were going to be in touch. The only scary part was having her going far away. But we thought, ‘This was what she wants and it was a great opportunity for her,’ so we supported her 100%.”
Davis appeared in 10 games between March 1 and May 6, scoring one goal — an 89th-minute game-winner in a 3-2 victory over M. Hadera on March 25 — and dishing out a handful of assists while playing primarily on the right wing.
Though Davis was missing family and friends and still trying to navigate a land where the primary language is Hebrew, she was having a blast playing soccer abroad and visiting historic places, such as Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. And she felt no concern about her safety. Even if conflict broke out between Israel and Hamas, Tel Aviv is 40 miles north of Gaza (where Hamas is based) and historically has been out of range of rocket attack.
But rising tensions between Israel and Hamas came to a head on May 10, when fighting broke out in earnest. The next night, a city that had been a safe distance from the violence no longer was.
“My team had told me the sirens might come on, but nothing ever happens here, so there’s nothing to worry about,” Davis said.
“Then at the field the sirens went on and I looked up and saw the missiles above us, and we ran behind the bleachers and hid in trees,” Davis added. “It was scary. I looked at some of my teammates and they were crying. They said the missiles had never reached Tel Aviv like this.”
Soccer season was suspended. Davis, who was living alone in an apartment, took refuge with the Whites, a family of four that had moved from Everett to Tel Aviv in December and had befriended Davis. The daily routine became watching the news, monitoring social media and hurrying to the building’s shelter whenever the sirens sounded.
“Our building even shook one time,” Davis said. “Just hearing all those booms was wild. I can still hear them in my head.”
Meanwhile, efforts to get Davis out of Tel Aviv and back home were proving unsuccessful. Davis had four different flights out of Tel Aviv canceled. Appeals to politicians and officials fell on deaf ears.
“We couldn’t sleep,” said Vikashni Davis, who eventually stopped answering her phone for anyone other than her daughter. “We were trying to reach the U.S. Embassy (in Tel Aviv) day and night. I had a friend here try to connect me with (U.S. Rep.) Rick Larsen’s office. We waited and waited and nothing happened. The only positive thing was that Trina was with an American family that was so helpful in taking care of her.”
“After the sirens went off the first time I was scared every time I heard them,” Davis said. “I felt hopeless after four flights got canceled. I even contacted the U.S. Embassy, and they told me it wasn’t an emergency and there was nothing they could do. I was there alone, I didn’t have family there to help or comfort me — it was a lot to go through at one moment.
“At that point I didn’t know what to do. Would I have to stay here through all this?”
Davis’ family continued to frantically use its channels to try and get Davis home — her mother estimated about 500 to 600 people across the country and in Fiji were involved in some way, including offers of financial assistance or participation in online prayer chains.
Finally, a family member who’s a travel agent found a seat available on a May 18 flight to New York on El Al, the Israeli airline that was the only one still flying out of Tel Aviv. The family gladly paid the $1,200 dollar one-way fee, and Davis raced to the airport to take a rapid COVID test so she could board the plane to New York.
When Davis landed at Sea-Tac, her family met her outside baggage claim, bringing her terrifying journey to a close.
“I cried,” Davis said. “It was emotional finally seeing my mom and sister and dad and boyfriend.”
“We met her and she started crying,” Vikashni Davis said. “We all cried, but it was a happy ending. I was so happy to see her.”
A ceasefire was brokered between Israel and Hamas on May 21. It’s reported that during the 11 days of fighting, more than 4,000 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza, killing 12, while more than 230 people were killed in Gaza by Israeli artillery and airstrikes.
Davis, who originally had been scheduled to return home June 1, never had a chance to say goodbye to her teammates. That fateful May 11 evening was the last time she saw them. ASA Tel Aviv resumed the season after the ceasefire, playing the final two games without her.
As harrowing as the conclusion to her time in Israel was for Davis, it hasn’t deterred her from pursuing a professional soccer career overseas. Davis is considering opportunities in countries like France and Finland, though she doesn’t plan on returning to Israel.
“We’re glad she’s home safe, but we don’t want this to stop her,” Vikashni Davis said. “We still want her to continue pursuing her dream.”
“I learned it takes a lot of commitment and sacrifice — and to expect the unexpected,” Davis said of her experience. “Two days earlier I was in Eilat at a resort living my best life. I never expected that two days later I’d be running from missiles.”