LACROSSE HAS taken root in Israel over the past few years, and next week the World Championship is being hosted by Netanya.
(photo credit: ISRAEL LACROSSE)
The sports world’s eyes will be on Netanya from July 12-21 as the World Lacrosse Championship is coming to Israel for the first time. The 13th edition of the competition will see close to 50 countries descending on the Holy Land in an attempt to take home the sport’s ultimate prize, which is awarded every four years.
After hosting the EuroBasket last summer, the European Judo Championships and the Giro D’Italia earlier this year, it’s time for another sporting event to make its way to Israel and lacrosse may be the biggest one of them all. David Lasday, the COO of Israel Lacrosse is looking forward to this once-in-a-lifetime event.
“It’s really been an amazing year for Israel’s sports scene and now we’re following up with another major event, potentially the biggest sporting event that the country has ever hosted,” said Lasday.
“There will be over 150 games during the 10 day competition which will allow for amazing exposure both domestically and internationally for Israel and lacrosse. ESPN will be broadcasting all of the games on their various platforms and the Israel sports channel, Sport5, will help us in terms of growing the sport and inspiring the next generation of young lacrosse players here.”
Amazingly, lacrosse in Israel was born out of a Birthright trip.
“Our Executive Director Scott Neiss came on Birthright and saw that lacrosse wasn’t being played in Israel,” explained Lasday. “He immediately realized that there was an opportunity to introduce a new sport to the country due to the amount of Jews playing lacrosse at colleges across North America and the potential for these players and coaches to make aliyah and grow the game in Israel. His vision and leadership along with other pioneers set out to make this dream a reality and today the sport has expanded into 16 cities with hundreds of kids playing all over Israel and competing internationally as well.”
Of course, there are tremendous challenges when growing a new sport especially where soccer and basketball are king.
“Those two sports have the most amount of resources and facilities. But to our advantage lacrosse is a mixture of both of them,” said Lasday. “The fact that Israel is a small country has helped us grow rapidly as we continue to foster new relationships. In addition, we have a Jewish Agency Masa program during the summer which attracts the most talented Jewish college athletes to come over here and play in our league.”
The World Lacrosse Tournament was last held in Denver, Colorado, in 2014. While it usually rotates between various English-speaking countries, it made its way to Israel after Manchester pulled out due to unforeseen circumstances.
Lasday and the Israel Lacrosse Association grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
“Due to our proximity to Europe, and with many European teams developing and competing, we realized that we could be a beacon to all these new lacrosse countries. We could show them right here in Israel, on the ground, how to develop the sport the correct way due to our experience in growing the sport over the past decade.”
There will be thousands of athletes and tourists arriving in Israel over the next week ahead of the tournament and to Lasday this is one of the highlights of the event.
“It’s very exciting to bring people from around the world who would have never come to Israel before. The athletes, their families and friends are looking forward to touring the country as we are also giving every team the gift of Jerusalem. We are sponsoring a tour of Jerusalem for each team in the competition which includes a trip to the Old City, a visit to Yad Vashem and a chance to practice at the new Kraft Family Sports Complex.”
The majority of games will take place at the Wingate Institute while the opening ceremonies will be held at the Netanya Stadium.
“Netanya was the perfect place to host this type of event,” Lasday acknowledged. “With the amount of fields at our disposal at Wingate, which has become our Olympic center for sports excellence, it was the perfect location. The Netanya Stadium will provide the tournament with a top level facility for the grand opening which will also see two marquee matchups between Israel and Jamaica followed by the United States and the Iroquois Nation.”
As Israel readies itself to welcome the lacrosse world, Lasday is fully aware of how the tournament may impact both the country and the future of the sport.
“We’re very much looking forward to use this sport to connect people from around the world to Israel. This is our opportunity to inspire the next generation of Israeli lacrosse players with the hope that in the future they will be able to represent the blue-and-white in the Olympic Games and competitions across the globe.”Joshua Halickman, the Sports Rabbi, covers Israeli sports and organizes Israel Sports Adventures for tourists and residents. Follow the Sports Rabbi on Twitter @thesportsrabbi or visit www.sportsrabbi.com. Contact the Sports Rabbi via email at email@example.com