Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 2/15/16
Reprinted from the Jewish Voice, Jewish Federation of Delaware
On Dec. 25, 2015, I joined 37 other Jewish teens from across the United States to embark on a journey of a lifetime as part of the 2nd annual Israel Lacrosse Winter Service Trip
Israel Lacrosse is a non-profit organization dedicated to relentlessly and strategically pursuing the goal of making lacrosse the national sport of Israel through exponential growth. The organization utilizes lacrosse as a platform to connect Diaspora Jews with Israel.
Our group took part in one week of touring, volunteering, and lacrosse training throughout various parts of Israel. We visited Yad Vashem: World Holocaust Center, Jerusalem, Haifa, Netanya, the Dead Sea, and camped out in the Negev Desert in a Bedouin Village.
Being in Israel for the first time provided an opportunity to see many of the things I learned about in Jewish Day School. This was more than learning about my heritage as it also allowed me to experience the food, tourist destinations, and the countryside of Israel.
Teaching the game of lacrosse to Israeli youth was also a wonderful way to make people-to-people connections and grow the sport of lacrosse. The final three days of the program culminated with formal tryouts for Israel’s U-19 Men’s National Team, which will compete at the 2016 FIL U-19 World Championships in Vancouver. The three day competition was held in Ashkelon, the Jewish State’s lacrosse hotbed.
Head coach Seth Mahler, along with his coaching staff directed the participants through various drills and scrimmages to evaluate both physical and athletic ability, field vision/awareness, and lacrosse IQ in general. The format of the tryout has been developed to assess how well the players can receive instruction and apply it in subsequent drills and games.
Mahler, who has been in Israel since 2013 developing the youth lacrosse programs, is thrilled to have such a large representation of
Israeli-born players in the tryout pool. “It’s always exciting to be a pioneer, individually or as part of a group, being the first to do something new and travel uncharted waters and that’s the opportunity before these boys,” said Mahler.
A highly competitive environment was anticipated but great sportsmanship was also displayed as we competed for a place on the U-19 roster. The evaluation obviously focused on lacrosse skill but the evaluators also looked for well-rounded athletes who displayed strong character and were true team players.
By the time you read this, Israel Lacrosse will have announced the team’s 46-man national team roster. I remain hopeful I will be selected to represent my spiritual homeland. The team will consist of Israeli players as well as members of the Jewish diaspora, in accordance with the rules and regulations of the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL).
This experience would not have been made possible without the generous support of my parents and through several community scholarships including the Gratz Endowment, Gilbert J. Spiegel Memorial Fund and Congregation Beth Emeth.
Jakob Katzen is a high school senior attending Wilmington Friends School. He plays travel lacrosse for the Silverbacks Lacrosse Club and has verbally committed to play DIII lacrosse at McDaniel College.