Ian Cohen, a current participant in Tikkun Olam's Social Action Track, and an avid lacrosse player in his spare time, recently helped operate a lacrosse and basketball camp for kids from Be'er Sheva during Operation Pillar of Defense. The camp offered the kids a much-needed respite from the constant rocket fire that Be'er Sheva saw during the operation.
Read what Ian had to say about his experience below, and click here to register for Tikkun Olam's Spring semester!
Ian with a student at one of his volunteering locations in Tel Aviv
Lacrosse has always been a hobby for me, but it recently took on a deeper meaning. I am currently spending a year living and volunteering in Israel with the Tikkun Olam in Tel Aviv-Jaffa program (www.tikkunolamisrael.org). During the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza, I was given the opportunity to participate in what will certainly be one of the more memorable experiences during my time here.
A few weeks ago, before Operation Pillar of Defense began, I joined the Tel Aviv Lacrosse club. A week later, after hostilities broke out, I received a mass text message from the director of Israel Lacrosse asking if any of the club members would be interested in helping to run a lacrosse clinic for kids later in the week. I quickly jumped at the chance to work with Israeli youth and teach them a new sport. With the help of some connections, Netanya Hoops for Kids and Israel Lacrosse were able to organize a bus full of kids from Be'er Sheva to come north to Netanya to stay in a boarding school for a few nights, to get away from the rockets and missiles raining down on their homes. In the meantime, we would treat them to basketball and lacrosse clinics – a welcome change for them from being cooped up in bomb shelters.
When we arrived at the boarding school, we set up in an open field near where some local kids were playing on a playground. Within minutes of putting the equipment down, some students came over and snatched up the sticks, trying to figure out how to use this foreign device. I showed some of them some basics, but they were really just interested in throwing the ball and shooting on the net. While this was happening, students in the classroom got wind of what was going on outside, and began pressing their faces up to the windows, and even hanging out the windows trying to get the kids with the sticks to throw the balls into the classroom. Just as the teachers broke up the mayhem and brought the kids inside, the children from Be'er Sheva arrived, right on cue.
Ian (far right) with other members of the lacrosse and basketball clubs, running the camp
After an introduction from the director of Netanya Hoops for Kids, we split up into groups and began coaching. While the kids had never seen lacrosse before, they were open to learning about this new sport. I made the most of my time with each group, and tried to teach them as much as possible. After the groups had been through each station, we regrouped and talked as a large group once more before dispersing.
While the activity itself was short-lived, I can certainly say that this will be one of the more memorable experiences I will take away from these ten months with Tikkun Olam. I take a great sense of pride in feeling like I made a difference in these kid’s lives by being a part of a great activity and giving them some respite from the situation back home. It was a great feeling getting to see the joy on the kids' faces, and knowing I was able to help give them a short break from the troubles back home. I hope that there won't be a need for another clinic like this, but if there is, I'll definitely be happy to help out again.