Israel’s new national men’s lacrosse team just got word that it has earned membership in the Federation of International Lacrosse — and a chance to compete in the 2014 World Lacrosse Championship, to be held in Denver — by virtue of its eighth-place finish in the European championships last June.
The team was only two weeks old at the time of that tournament, pulled together from the best male players in an Israeli lacrosse program for men and women founded 18 months previously by Scott Neiss, the 27-year-old former deputy commissioner of the North American Lacrosse League. Neiss moved to Israel after being inspired by a Birthright trip.
General Manager Howard Borkan formerly served as chairman of the US national lacrosse team for nearly two decades. “We’re extremely pleased with how quickly our program has progressed,” Borkan commented. “We believe that we have positioned ourselves well to continue our rapid domestic growth as well as our international standing.”
Israeli head coach Bill Beroza holds places of honor in both the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in the United States. “We don’t have a lot of depth, but we have a lot of heart,” Beroza said of the national team.
Lacrosse is virtually unknown in Israel, and not surprisingly it has attracted mainly North American immigrants or their children who played the sport in high school or college. The program ran a dozen youth clinics in the past year and an exhibition game in Turkey. Gaining official recognition from the Culture and Sport Ministry enabled the national team’s participation in the European tournament.