Israel, international lacrosse power?
Not yet. But four years after the sport that developed as a military training exercise among indigenous residents of the United States and Canada centuries ago was introduced in Israel, Israel’s men’s national lacrosse team ended its first appearance in last week’s World Lacrosse Championship with a seventh-place world ranking.
This comes two months after Maccabi Tel Aviv won the Euroleague basketball championship.
With their minds on Israel’s fighting against Hamas terrorists in Gaza, the lacrosse players won surprising victories over Sweden, Slovakia, Korea, Ireland and Germany (by cumulative scores of 88-18), before falling to Australia, 9-8, in the quarterfinal round in the championships near Denver.
Dartmouth graduate Ari Sussman, right, led Israel in the quarterfinal match with three goals.
“Our thoughts and our hearts are not here with us in Denver,” Scott Neiss, a Long Island native who serves as executive director of the Israel Lacrosse Association, wrote in an email from the championships. “We knew we had a talented squad, but I don’t think anybody expected us to perform at the level we have — every other team is playing for a medal. We’re playing for the people.”
“Every time we step on the field, we represent something bigger than just the lacrosse team,” Vermont native Noach Miller, a forward on the team who now lives in Tel Aviv, told the Associated Press. “Maybe this [string of wins] provides a bit of light in the darkness that’s really in Israel right now. … Lacrosse is our way to give back to the country now.”
Some of the players, including Miller, planned to return to Israel after the championships and rejoin their Army units.
Other supporters of the ILA last month took part in the first Amazing Israel Lacrosse program, which partnered with Birthright Israel to offer a visit to Israel that combined touring with exhibition games and training in the sport.