By Anthony Caruso
Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 8/14/14
HADDONFIELD, N.J. – It was a special homecoming for Team Israel standout Kyle Bergman Sunday when he played in the Israel Lacrosse Association’s second annual International Lacrosse Festival at Haddonfield High. Bergman was a captain and all-league player for Drexel, graduating in 2012.
“I love coming back close to Philly, as it is my old stomping grounds,” he said. “It’s great to represent Israel so close to Drexel.”
While he was playing close to home, he was also serving as a mentor to many younger players, who were preparing to play in the JCC Maccabi Games for Jewish youths. The Festival featured three games last weekend between Israel, the Philippines and Greece, all of which helped kick off the Olympic-style youth festival being hosted by the Katz JCC in Cherry Hill. Lacrosse is one of the many sport featured in the Maccabi Games, for boys and girls aged 13 to 17 in North America.
Bergman, who was born in Westport (CT) and later moved to Ontario, became an Israeli citizen in February. He is one of the top players for Team Israel, which finished seventh in the World Games last month in Colorado.
Team Israel defeated the Philippines, 14-4, in Saturday’s exhibition and also downed Greece on Saturday. Team Israel featured a group of both American and Israeli high school players – all of whom looked up to Bergman and the other older players.
“You have to try to slow the game down here and help these guys,” said Bergman. “I remember when I was young, you always try to watch what the older players are doing. Also, in a way, we’re coaching them to be passionate players for this game.”
Also, Bergman was able to help these players, who were from Israel to keep their minds off of the ordeal that’s going on back home. The Israeli National Team practices in Ashkelon, which is minutes away from Gaza, where the majority of the crisis is happening.
“It’s crazy, but they’re still playing,” he said. “There’s times when we know it is OK to practice. If a rocket were to hit Ashekelon, I think they would have something like 30 seconds or so to go to a bomb shelter.
“It’s great that these guys are able to come over here; however, it is our job to take their minds off of what’s going on. They still have family over there, but right now, they’re OK and we’re happy to get their minds off of what’s going on. It is important, because it is not just Israeli Jews – Israeli Muslims, who are also playing with the Jews – it’s hormoneous. They’re all friends. It’s this radical group that is ruining it for everybody.”
Bergman has to have a close eye on the situation that’s going on over in Israeli. He said he has a second cousin, who he says she’s currently safe, as things can change in seconds over there.
“I know she’s safe, and the majority of Israeli’s are,” he said. “It’s still a place, where people shouldn’t be afraid to go, because the military and defense force is making as safe a place as possible. The conflict that’s going on is a scary place, but it’s like America, there’s rough parts that are bad, yet people still go.”
This past July, Bergman was one of 23-players picked to represent Israel in the FIA World Championships near Denver. He had 13 goals over the week-long games, where Israel had a strong showing in its first appearance in the Games.
“I was honored to be picked to try out,” Bergman said. “After trying out, I made the team and that was an incredible experience. It was also the best time of my life. I went over there knowing a couple of guys, and left with 23 brothers. It was awesome playing on the World’s stage.
“What we were doing was raising awareness of the sport. Not only being good competitors, but making sure that we’re representing the country well. That’s what is really important here, as some people may have negative comments towards Israelis and Jews with the current situation going on, but we’re trying to change that. We want people to know that we’re doing great things here through lacrosse.”