Israel Lacrosse Makes World Championship Debut
Amid turmoil at home, the Israeli national lacrosse team made their FIL World Championship Friday, July 11 with a 19-4 win over 10th-ranked Sweden.
The team traveled to host state Colorado earlier this month, just days after the bodies of three kidnapped Israeli teens were found in the West Bank and a week before Israel officially launched Operation Protective Edge against Hamas targets in Gaza. Since the start of the games, the team has beat Sweden, Slovakia, Ireland, Korea and Germany for a 5-0 record as of Tuesday.
“At the same time while we think about the games, we also think about what’s going on in Israel,” said head coach William Beroza in an interview with the JT ahead of the team’s debut. “It’s a challenging time for a lot of the players, but, you know, we’re excited about playing lacrosse.”
With three players enlisted in the Israel Defense Forces and more planning to enlist after the games, the team has been watching the news regularly, said Beroza, but the notion of dropping out has not so much as crossed their minds, he asserted.
“We end every practice, every dinner, basically understanding what’s going on back there, with our prayers and wishing them well,” said Beroza. “It’s not a major distraction, it’s just it’s something we need to think about, certainly.”
Since arriving to the U.S., the team has taken extra precautions to ensure the safety of the athletes and staff. Their schedule and hotel accommodations are not disclosed to the public and the team has hired a private security firm which has worked closely with the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the Denver police, said Scott Neiss, executive director of the Israel Lacrosse Association.
In addition, the association has temporarily closed its headquarters in Ashkelon and relocated staff to the program’s Tel Aviv office.
Despite the efforts to protect the team in recent weeks, coaches and players have not been immune to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement picking up steam across parts of the U.S. Beroza said the team has had to deal with a protestor at one of their practices and even had to make changes in their practice locations due to non-violent threats.
At the end of the day, though, Beroza said, “we’re here to play lacrosse.”