Ofir Marciano has expressed his eternal gratitude to Neil Lennon for respecting his religious beliefs and then believing in him to play a key role in Hibernian’s charge into the top three.
The Israeli goalkeeper asked for special permission to be excused from the Premiership meeting with Celtic on 30 September as it clashed with the holy Jewish day of Yom Kippur. It transpired that Celtic’s Nir Bitton was also not involved in that game, in which Hibs earned a thoroughly deserved 2-2 draw.
Marciano was then given paternity leave for the next match – a 1-0 defeat by Aberdeen – as his wife Shelly gave birth to a little boy named Sun.
Lennon handed the gloves back to Marciano for the Edinburgh derby on 24 October and he kept a clean sheet as Hibs beat Hearts 1-0 and has now enjoyed three shut-outs in a row as Hibs have moved up to third.
Marciano said: “The Jewish calendar is different to yours, so when we saw the fixtures I saw immediately Yom Kippur fell on the day of the Celtic match and I went straight away to the gaffer to tell him.
“I explained what it was and he fully understood and I really appreciated that. He allowed me to practise my beliefs. Again, I don’t have words to describe how helpful and understanding he has been.
“All the Jewish players in Europe were not playing on this day – Nir Bitton, for example, was not in the Celtic squad. It’s not just me. It was tough, a big sacrifice for me, especially a game against Celtic as it would have been the first time I had played against them.
“However, Yom Kippur is the most holy day of the year in the Jewish calendar. We observe it, it’s a special day between you and God and you have to fast and pray and we do it every year.
“This year it fell on Saturday, unluckily, but I needed to accept it and I am thankful for everything.”
Ross Laidlaw took Marciano’s place in the build-up to that league game at Celtic Park and kept his place for the Betfred Cup semi-final as Celtic won 4-2 but was at fault and Marciano was recalled.
He undoubtedly proved his worth on Tuesday night with a string of good saves, although Killie hit the frame of his goal three times as clinical Hibs ran out 3-0 winners.
Marciano said: “I knew I had to fight to win my place back, it’s something you have to face at times in your career and I’m happy to have the gloves back and happy to show I deserve it but I have to do it every game.
“You must have days like Tuesday. This season we’ve lost some unlucky goals and this was karma.
“We wanted so much to keep a clean sheet and sometimes the luck is with you and it was with us in this game.
“We’re in great form just now and we just want to keep it going. It’s a great feeling to come back and start this run with clean sheets.
“We know when we don’t concede we will probably score and win and this is our main target now.”
Hibs now face bottom of the table Dundee on Saturday looking to rack up four straight top flight wins for the first time in over six years.