Despite the ongoing Gaza conflict, Jewish-American volunteers stuck it out in Israel to teach lacrosse to more than 1,000 Israeli youngsters this summer.
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Coming from all over the United States, college lacrosse players spent their summer interning with the Israel Lacrosse Association, teaching a sport that has gained immense popularity here in the past year.
As the Israeli national men’s lacrosse team competed in the World Lacrosse Championships for the entire month of July, the players – many of whom are staff members of the organization in Israel – relied on the dedicated group of interns to continue developing the sport on the ground during these tense times.
When asked about her thoughts on the contrast to coaching lacrosse camps in the United States and Israel, Taylor Roy – a Wheaton College product and current intern – said, “You have 100 kids to be responsible for, and what happens if a rocket is fired? There is nothing like that back in America, where you are trying to teach kids a new sport and engage them, yet you know that at any moment we will have to make a dash for a shelter and make sure all the kids are safe.”
Although times were tense as the confrontation between Hamas and Israel intensified in the south, lacrosse served as an escape from the anxiety and stress for the youth of Israel.
With summer camps in Ashkelon, Tel Aviv, Ramle, Lod, Netanya and Katzrin, over 1,000 Israeli youngsters experienced the joy of learning a new sport. “It’s a way to take kids’ minds off everything, learn a new game, make friends, have fun and experience the uniqueness of this special game,” reflected Ted Bergman, who has participated in several ILA events and spent his summer interning with the organization.
With the summer coming to an end, ILA staff members who play on the national team are arriving back in Israel, inspired by not only their performance on the world stage but even more by the courage and passion of the association’s young interns, who remained in Israel during these stressful times to spread the joy of the game.
With a dedicated group of staff members and interns, lacrosse has a bright future in Israel: the association plans to expand to three new cities, with youth programs in five marginalized population centers of the country.
“It is absolutely amazing and inspiring to witness what the interns have been able to accomplish while we have been competing in the world championships,” said Noach Miller, a staff member and national team player.
“They should be proud of what they did over this summer, being able to contribute to the welfare of Israeli youth during this trying time. It’s this type of group that will enable lacrosse to thrive and grow in Israel.”