Via Inside Lacrosse, a report on Israel Lacrosse’s efforts to navigate recent terror with messages of hope:

There’s a picture that Ian Kadish, the Executive Director of Israel Lacrosse, was sent this week.

It was Mor Cohen, on crutches and in a cast at the U-19 World Lacrosse Championship in 2016, with his Israeli teammates. He’s smiling. Injury or not, he’s beaming with pride representing his country on an international stage.

“This is a kid who was approached to play a sport that he had no idea what it was. No one around him knew what it was, and he took a chance and he said, ‘OK, I will do this,’” said Kadish. “Lacrosse, as it is for many of us, is such an amazing game and it was able to give him so much.”

Cohen was killed this week during the attacks on Israel. He was 24.

Cohen was there with Israel Lacrosse from the beginning. Then, it was a grassroots, bare-bones operation. A couple of guys with bags of sticks and balls, looking for anyone who wanted to play and share the sport.

Cohen, in Tel Aviv, was one who had the strength to give it a try — to grab this odd-looking stick-and-net contraption and see where it took him. He was part of Israel’s first U-19 World Championship team, which played in Canada. Since then, Israel Lacrosse has grown into a prominent international lacrosse nation with a national team training center and roughly 35 staff/coaches growing the sport in cities across Israel. He became part of a community of Jews from Israel to America bonded by their heritage and a sport.

Israel Lacrosse has had to galvanize amid the terror in Israel. It’s a scary reality for all involved with the organization, and at the forefront is the very safety of its staff, athletes and their extended family in Israel. It has already experienced first-hand the loss of Cohen, not to mention families and friends all over Israel who are directly in harm’s way.

Kadish’s call to action is represented in that photo of Cohen from seven years ago: “Stand tall, speak louder.”

“We’re not going to let anybody tell us what we can’t be or who we are. Ever,” Kadish said Wednesday. “And I think in the face of the truly horrific stuff that our people in Israel are going through, it’s more important than ever, whether it’s on national teams, social media, or face-to-face for our people to stand proud, stand tall, and to speak as loud as possible, saying, ‘We’re here, we’re here. We’re not going anywhere. We stand with Israel. This is wrong.’”

The week following the Jewish holidays was supposed to be about optimism. This week, Israel Lacrosse was kicking things into high gear; the staff had this weekend circled on calendars to go full steam ahead with its most ambitious growth ever, making a tremendous investment and push in its youth development programs, one that Kadish thinks is among the biggest in international lacrosse history.

Terror shifted course.

Kadish’s attention turned first and foremost to safety and tracking down his staff but also using their network to help the greater Israeli community — trying to find parents, brothers, sisters, and friends of all those effected by the unexpected and horrific act of terror.

Ashkelon, where the national training center is, is just Northeast of Gaza, and terrorists have been driving throughout the region brutalizing the southern Israeli communities.

“It’s such a place of happiness for us. It’s a safe place for all our American Jews. One of the stories we hear all the time is, ‘Hey, I’m the only Jewish kid on my lacrosse team.’ Or, ‘I’m the only Jewish kid at my school. I get called ‘Jewboy’, people tell me to pick up the change, I get bullied for it, and then I come to Israel. I come to Israel, I come to Ashkelon, I’m at the facility and suddenly I’m surrounded by Jewish people. I’m surrounded by Jewish lacrosse players. I’m finally home. I’m finally safe. No one looks at me weird. No one looks at me as if I’m different,” said Kadish. “To see that juxtaposition of such extreme violence at a place that for our community has been such a place of strength, a place of safety, and a place for connection, was really challenging to watch.”

The outreach came quickly, and Israel Lacrosse has reiterated that message of “speak louder.” They are asking for support on social media — something that may seem minor, but Kadish expands on why that matters.

“You’re an Israeli kid and you’ve been sheltering in place, locking your doors, and trying to not be found by the invaders outside. You feel alone, and you go to social media, and you think that the world is against you. Well, the world’s not against you, and our community is not against you. We are with you,” he said. Kadish continued, “Not to mention so many members of our lacrosse community who have been called up to serve on the front lines for our country. From combat roles to managing support logistics, members of both our national and youth teams are defending Israel and need to know that we stand united for them.”

Israel Lacrosse also has opted not to collect donations surrounding this wave of violence, instead deferring to organizations tied more directly to the humanitarian efforts like Magen David Adom, The Lone Soldier Center and Zaka.

The Israel Men’s National Team will compete this coming weekend in scrimmages in the Northeast as an opportunity to come together and represent their people and country during these tragic times.

Using sport to stand proud for the Jewish people is at the core of what Israel Lacrosse is all about. “We need everyone to stand proud at a time like this as an opportunity to show the world we’re not going anywhere,” said Kadish. “This is horrific. And this is a terribly scary time for Israelis and for Jews all over the world, but we’re not going anywhere. We will persist, and we will survive.”


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