Israel

How Lacrosse Connected Me to Israel

Growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, to two Zionist parents I was no stranger to Israel. My family traveled to Israel annually, but the frequency of our visits almost led me to resent the country. “There are so many places in the world, why do we always come here?”

I felt I was living my parents’ dream, not mine.

It wasn’t until later in life that I found my first true connection to Israel: Lacrosse. A McGill University teammate had played in the first-ever Lacrosse game in Israel. Six months later – during one of the infamous family visits – I found myself playing Lacrosse at Gan Sachar and Kraft Stadium in Jerusalem.

I was hooked, returning six months after that for a summer internship at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot, and grabbed the chance to represent Israel in the European Lacrosse Championships’ Festival in Amsterdam. That summer would exhibit a bigger pattern; the interconnectedness between Lacrosse and the other parts of my life – one pursuit always enabling the other.

Scott Neiss, the Director of Israel Lacrosse, reached out to me again when I was graduating from McGill to sell me on a chance to compete with the Israeli National Team in the World Lacrosse Championships. All I had to do was move to Israel.

My younger brother, Ben, had moved to Israel the year prior to join the Israeli Defense Forces. With Ben leading the way, I had the courage to do the same. However, a desire to combine my interests at the intersection of business and science lingered. Would it be possible to combine my personal and professional interests at once? My acceptance into the Technion’s Start-Up MBA program meant I was going to find out.

I immersed myself in Israel whole-heartedly. Today, reflecting on that time, it was the most engaged year of my life. Long days in the classroom and evenings full of assignments broken up only by time in the weight room, runs, or Lacrosse practices.

Alongside my studies and training, I founded a company, Keheala, which improves healthcare access and treatment outcomes by empowering patients with behavioral interventions. My startup would expose me to a great breadth of the Israeli startup ecosystem – the Pears Challenge, the 8200 Social Program, MassChallenge – lead to recognition from various organizations – Teva Pharmaceuticals, Nefesh B’Nefesh and the U.S. Agency for International Development – and even introduce me to some of Israel’s technology titans like Marius Nacht. I have taken advantage of Israeli society’s greatest resources – yet, I cannot overlook the fact that Lacrosse made this all possible.

What did I do when work brought me to Kenya? I brought bags of lacrosse sticks with me. Today, I am lucky to coach kids in Nairobi and to serve as a Board Member for the Kenya Lacrosse Association. On the ground in East Africa, I connected with Lacrosse players from Uganda. Israel Lacrosse also gave me the mandate to bring two Lacrosse players from Uganda to compete in the Israel Premiere Lacrosse League each of the past two summers.

Lacrosse made it possible to share Israel and sport with others. This summer Israel Lacrosse is hosting 46 countries in Lacrosse’s pinnacle competition. My teammates and I have a tremendous responsibility to represent, share, and inspire Israelis and many others from around the world.

My parents’ love made me take the leap. Lacrosse helped me connect with Israel. And the startup ecosystem enabled me to fall in love with the place. My relationship with Israel continues to evolve. And that’s a good thing. People grow and change while certain threads tie the pieces of our lives together. Lacrosse is that thread in my life and this summer will be a new patch in my life’s quilt.

[Photo: Israel Lacrosse / Facebook ]