Editor’s Note: As instructors and students return to campus, we learn about some of their adventures and accomplishments over the past three months. Ari Lerman and Zach Richterman spent July 4-18 playing for the USA junior men’s hockey team in the World Maccabi Games in Israel.
For three weeks during July, Ari Lerman ’18 (South Bend, Indiana) and Zach Richterman ’18 (Canton, Ohio) toured historic and cultural sites throughout Israel, expanded their menu choices in some unexpected ways, and learned that 18-year-olds around the world are not that much different than their friends at Culver.
How did they get this opportunity? Through playing hockey. And they won a gold medal to add to their memories.
Lerman and Richterman were members of the USA men’s junior hockey team at the World Maccabi Games. The games, held since 1932, are an international multi-sport event held every four years in Israel. The best Jewish athletes from around the world compete in open, masters, juniors, and disabled competitions. It is one of the five largest sports gatherings in the world.
Lerman and Richterman had to travel to Philadelphia to try out for the hockey team last year. They then reported early this summer for a two-day training camp before taking off for Jerusalem, where they played at the Pais Arena. Over the three-week period, they played five games, defeating Canada, 5-2, in the final to take the gold. It was the first time the USA juniors had the won tournament since hockey was added 12 years ago.
But hockey was just the vehicle that brought them to this unique cultural immersion program. The games and practices were in the morning, so Lerman, Richterman, and the rest of the team were able to tour the country. They visited the Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee, the Western Wall, the Holocaust Memorial, and other sites in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. They even got to ride donkeys.
Richterman said the places that impressed him the most were the Western Wall and the Marketplace. “The street vendors were pretty cool,” he said.
For Lerman, the Holocaust Memorial was his top site; but touring Tel Aviv, considered an international high technology hub, “was really cool.”
The one thing that did take some getting used to was seeing nearly everyone their age in a military uniform. Two years of military service for men and women at age 18 is mandatory in Israel. Their tour guide, Yotom, was a young Israeli soldier and they spent a lot of time talking with him as they traveled from location to location. Both Lerman and Richterman said they were surprised at how much they had in common, as they did with others in their age group.
Smaller details that stood out were the all signs being written in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. The food did take some getting used to, they said. The heavy use of olive oil and Middle Eastern spices was different. With olive trees growing everywhere, the olive oil was understandable, though. Another interesting food choice was serving humus with every meal.
And, Richterman added, finding kosher food certainly was not a problem. “Sometimes, it is just so hard to eat kosher in America.”