By Anthony Caruso
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/10/14
HADDONFIELD, N.J. – For at least a few days, Cherry Hill East High School’s Brandon Stern and fellow Jewish lacrosse players from Israel and the United States could forget about the war going on in the Middle East.
“It’s obviously awful,” Stern said of the war. “It is something that I think about every day, as it isn’t too far from my mind.”
Today at Haddonfield High, Israel defeated the Philippines, 14-4, in the final game of the Israel Lacrosse Association’s second-annual International Lacrosse Festival. The game was one of four played by Israel, Philippines and Greece to help kick off the annual Jewish Community Center Maccabi Games, an Olympic-style festival for teens aged 13 to 16 held each year in several regions of North America. Many of this year’s games – including lacrosse – are being hosted by the Katz JCC of Cherry Hill.
The Israeli National team recently placed seventh last month in the World Championships in Colorado, an impressive finish for a program competing in its first World tourney. But the significance of Israel’s rise in lacrosse pales to the story back in the Middle East where war is heavy on the minds of Israeli and US players.
Israel’s National program trains in Ashkelon, which borders Gaza. Some of the Israeli team members – several of which are native of the U.S. – who played in Colorado are now serving in the Israeli Army. Those that played this weekend obviously had other worries on their minds.
Stern was one of a group of high school players competing this weekend for Team Israel; four are from Israel and two from Ashkelon.
Stern, a 2015 midfielder who has committed to Penn State. said that he doesn’t have any family in Israel during this difficult time. As the game was played, there was a report by the USA Today that Israel and Hamas agreed on a 72-hour cease-fire in Gaza.
“It’s awesome that we’re able to get kids from over there to come over here to get them away from that mess,” said Stern. “I’m sure while they’re here, their minds are on their families that are still over there in the crossfire. Things need to stop over there so we can all focus on lacrosse.”
Stern, knowing that the Maccabi Games were holding their opening ceremonies tonight in his home town area, was proud to play for Team Israel.
“It was definitely a cool experience playing for Israel,” said Stern, who has 67 career goals at Cherry Hill East. “This was a first, as I never did something like this before.
“It’s cool to play against kids already in college, and some adults, who already played in college. I had the ability to pick their brains to see what it is like to play and it will only help me when I get there.”
Stern was pleased to play with Israeli high school players also getting a rare taste of national lacrosse.
“I tried to show them how good lacrosse can be,” he said. “I also wanted to show them how fun this sport can and to help them get away from everything that’s going on over there.
“This was a good way for them to free their minds and not have to focus on the fighting and the bombings that are going on so close to home.”
Tags: Cherry Hill East