International Lacrosse Community reflects on experiences of visiting Israel

This past July, close to 10,000 fans and athletes from around the world assembled in Netanya, Israel for the 2018 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Men’s World Championship.

The event spanned 11 days and was considered the most widely viewed lacrosse event ever. The tournament was broadcast by ESPN and its affiliates, and was available to stream worldwide. While the competition was fierce throughout the event’s entirety, the experience in Israel is what many participants, fans and broadcasters found most inspiring and memorable.

Mark Findaro, a graduate from Tufts University in Boston, Mass., and the assistant coach of Team Mexico reflected on his time in Netanya.

“Having either played or coached lacrosse every season since I was 10 years old, no experience could compare to my time in Israel.”

“It was simply amazing and I was blown away by the country’s incredible beauty, diverse cultures and amazing people.”

Mark concluded how it was great to reconnect with friends and former teammates, as well as explore the country.

“This surreal experience sums up my time in Israel: simply amazing.”

ESPN’s renown analyst, Quint Kessenich, was also extremely enthusiastic about his experiences in Israel and explained how lacrosse wasn’t the most important aspect of his time spent in the great country.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, defined not by the lacrosse being played on the pitch,” Kessenich continued. “But by the connections established, friendships renewed, love of the game, allegiances forged, smiles shared and immersion into Israeli culture.”

Zach Currier, a star midfielder for Team Canada reinforced the impacts on oneself that come with staying in Israel.

“Israel isn’t the first place you think of when you think of lacrosse,” said Currier. “But it’s a really nice place, our hotel was right by the beach, just a beautiful place.”

While it’s evident that the beauty of Israel touched the hearts of many who attended the FIL Championship, the impact of the welcoming and gracious Israeli people and their cultures are what truly inspired people, especially Matthew Bagley, the head coach for Team Germany.

Before heading to Israel, Bagley knew the reputation that Germans had around the world as a result of the faults of their ancestors beginning in 1933.

“As an American, I also grew up surrounded by movies, TV shows and other media that portrayed the Germans as ‘the bad guys.’

He continued to admit that even he had his prejudices and stereotypes about who they were, which eventually changed when he started traveling the world in his 20’s, often visiting Germany.

“Through the wonderful sport of lacrosse however, I discovered that they are some of the kindest, caring and most genuine people I have ever met.”

Upon their arrival to Israel, Bagley and his team were warmly welcomed by Hadar Sela, an Ashkelon resident who was assigned to liase with the German team. In an email subsequent to Bagley’s visit, Sela wrote an emotional email to Bagley about how she was extremely overwhelmed by the compassion of the athletes, and invited them to stay at his house whenever they want.

Bagley responded in a very touching manner, implying how impactful the trip was.

“German children start learning about the Holocaust at school from a very early age, which imbues them with a sense of responsibility to never let something like that happen again.”

“You could feel this when the team visited the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. There was one 20-year-old player who just broke down in tears after walking through the children’s memorial. I’ll never forget him turning to me and saying, ‘But… they were just kids.’”

Bagley reiterated how lucky and thankful he and his team were to spend time with Hadar and sent him a team-signed jersey as a thank you.

These are just a few examples of how spending time in Israel left an imprint on all that attended the championship in Netanya.

While every FIL Championship has been hotly contested with the ultimate goal of winning a gold medal at the end, the experiences in Israel, exploring the culture, and its storied history are what truly impacted the participants.

–Spencer Kaufman/Israel Lacrosse Association