Israel’s lacrosse team – which did not exist just two years ago – is dazzling the world of sports, defeating Slovakia and France in recent matches to stand 2-0 in its first-ever European Championships.
On Thursday, Israel defeated number 17 ranked Slovakia 11-8, and then number 27 ranked France in a drenching rain on Friday.
On Sunday, Israel faces number 24 ranked Norway.
Israel Lacrosse was founded by Scott Neiss who came to Israel for the first time on Birthright in 2010. He made aliyah to Tel Aviv and decided to bring his passion for the sport to his new home.
So smitten was Neiss with Israel during his trip, and so ardent a lacrosse enthusiast, that he conducted research on bringing lacrosse to Israel during the early days of his tour, ultimately sneaking away from his group to rendezvous with Israeli contacts given to him by his own connections at the international lacrosse federation.
The team is comprised of 43 men from teams in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, as well as Jewish players from other countries. The team was given official recognition by the Ministry of Culture and Sports and permission to represent the state at the European Championships in Amsterdam. It is coached by another immigrant from the United States, Bill Beroza, member of the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.
Israel Lacrosse is organizing clubs dedicated to the sport across the country to encourage youth to play. According to an interview done with Haaretz, Neiss said the clinics are always conducted in Hebrew, even though a large number of the new devotees come from English-speaking families. “If we’re speaking English, the question Israelis ask is ‘Who are these crazy Americans?’ If we’re speaking Hebrew, the question is ‘What is this sport?’” Neiss told Haaretz.
A women’s team is also in the works.
About the Author: Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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