From having no lacrosse in Israel last year to sending 60 athletes to the European Championship in Amsterdam this summer, Israel Lacrosse has come a very long way and has now made it's mark on the international sports stage.
I've been part of the journey since November, when it was just a few players throwing the ball around on the beach or in the park, trying to build up a team and promote the sport throughout the country. It has been an incredible journey - to think that this June we would walk out onto the pitch, with Israel on our shirts, waving the Israeli flag, seemed like a dream. Yet, after months of hard work and incredible persistence and vision from our director Scott Neiss, we did it.
The European Championships 2012 (EC12) hosted two tournaments, passport holders dependent. Israel managed to squad a team with enough passport holders for the men's championships and also sent a men's and women's team to the festival championships.
The men and women's festival teams both dominated the festival tournaments, with the men remaining unbeaten.
Suddenly, it was the day of the finals, the moment we'd all hoped for, as both Israeli teams had their chance to play for the championship. It was incredible and surreal all in one. Both teams were both playing the finals at the same time against the same team - Global Players, a U.S.-based squad - on pitches adjacent to each other.
For us, the final match really was a nail biter. We had played this team twice before and both times they had beaten us by one goal. There was no way any of us would let them beat us a third time! It was so close, with one team scoring and the other equalizing within minutes.
The match ended on a draw and we had to go to sudden death in extra time, so the pressure was really on.
The pride of representing Israel
I remember in our final team talk, us talking with pride about representing Israel and what it felt to be Jewish standing on this pitch - especially as we had all visited the Anne Frank House a couple of days before where we read that with the increasing restrictions against the Jews, they were not allowed to play on athletic fields. Thus, our team, Jews from Israel, America and England, were standing out there, with the championship in our reach, well ... I cannot begin to explain the emotions.
Play began again and almost as if in slow motion, the youngest member of our team, 17-year-old Felicia Tissenbaum, scored. There was a split-second pause as we realized exactly what that meant, then we erupted together. All our players from the sidelines, our coaches and everyone on the field just shouted with joy and jumped around, singing "Yisrael, Yisrael".
It was amazing. Everyone was so happy, our cheeks began to hurt from smiling so much. We couldn't believe that we had done it. Both the Israel festival teams won - a double victory for Israel and celebration all round. This was a big day for Israeli sport and I was honored to be a part of it.
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