York College lacrosse standout Verman fulfills promise to herself with life-changing summer in Israel
Jayme Verman was in a foreign country, thousands of miles away from home and living with several other people in a house that wasn't fit for the number of occupants in it.
The house was in the Israeli city called Ashkelon and was close enough to the West Bank that Verman risked hearing and seeing rockets and sirens on any given night. Yet, this was a trip that Verman, a York County native, chose to make on her own, albeit for reasons that didn't include getting a first-hand brush with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Verman was in Israel as part of a one-month internship to help grow the game of lacrosse in the country. A junior at York College and a member of the women's lacrosse team, it was a trip and opportunity that she couldn't let pass. It just so happened that her time in Israel also came with an adventure on seeing how citizens over there live on a daily basis.
"It's something that you have to put yourself through," she said.
A dream trip: Verman first caught wind of a possible trip to Israel after her freshman year in 2014, when she was attending Ursinus College. While there, her lacrosse coach, Katie Hagan, received an email from Israel Lacrosse saying that the program was sponsoring Birthright trips for lacrosse players to help the Israeli national team train.
Birthright trips are all-expense paid trips for any Jewish person between the age of 18 and 26 to go to Israel for a 10-day rite of passage to explore and learn about the country. The twist with the Israel Lacrosse-sponsored trip is that the players also had the chance to take on the national team.
"It was the same Birthright trip that everyone else got, but we got to play in a couple games against the Israeli National Team," Verman said of the trip she made after her freshman college season.
Following the 10-day stay, many of Verman's traveling partners stuck around to help in a month-long lacrosse camp. Verman didn't, but vowed to herself that eventually she would.
"I made a promise to myself that I would go back so that I could give a full month, maybe more, if I wanted to, so I could work for Israeli Lacrosse," she said. "That's what I decided to do."
Following her sophomore year, her first with the Spartans in which she led the team with 61 points, Verman returned to Israel, fulfilling her promise to herself.
Her trip began in June and ended in late July. While there, she went to numerous schools and cities to help with camps and clinics. At each new stop, Verman and the other interns would begin each day with showcases to give the children an idea of the skills that they'd be learning. She said during her trip, she had a stick in her hand about 80 percent of the time.
Developing a close friend: Verman's fondest memory of her time in Israel was the friendship she developed with a young boy named Ofir. She met him at one of the community "Sports Days" and he was attracted to Verman's ability to do tricks with her stick. Seeing Verman display her ability to handle a lacrosse stick in such unique ways served as motivation for Ofir to learn the same moves so he could show off to his friends.
"(Ofir) made me work with him for, like, two hours perfecting his stick tricks and teaching him new ones," Verman said. "Then once he would get the hang of it, he would run over to all of his younger friends and he'd show all of his friends that he was the hot-shot and that he could do the stick trick and no one else could."
In total, the internship was held in four different cities in Israel — Ashkelon, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Netanya. Each city was a new cultural experience for her, especially between Netanya and Ashkelon.
In Netanya, Verman lived with seven other people in a spacious apartment, but had a supervisor who had to keep kosher, which was a new experience for Verman. Then, when she moved to Ashkelon, she got a taste at how the other half lives — near unrest, in cramped quarters and with fewer amenities.
Still growing the game: Verman couldn't help but joke about the novice abilities of the Israelis at lacrosse, especially at the youth level.
Lacrosse has only really been prominent in Israel for about three years, so that's to be expected. However, with some of the younger men in their late teens, the game is growing more quickly because they are being offered scholarships to come over to America to attend camps and hone their skills. Still, for the most part, many of the players that do play on the Israeli national teams are Americans who earned dual citizenship through a program called "Make Aliyah."
Aliyah means "return to the Holy Land," and is what a lot of Jewish people do to become citizens of Israel. It also presents an interesting option for Verman, who is considering applying for dual citizenship in Israel through that program to try out for the Israeli Women's National Team.
"In two years, the women's national team will be re-forming for the World Cup," she said. "I'm going to try to try out for the Israeli Women's National Team and 'Make Aliyah' and become a dual citizen."
It's a significant goal and life decision, but she's as confident in that as she was when she promised herself that she would go back to Israel this summer to help out at the lacrosse clinics.
For her, this summer was a way to continue to learn about her Jewish heritage and teach the game she loves. It was also an eye-opening experience in which she impacted many lives and developed many friendships.
Verman is back in York preparing for her junior season and second year with the York women's lacrosse team, looking to help the team back to the NCAA Division III national tournament for a second straight season. But, even with another year of college and lacrosse directly in front of her, Verman is already confident in what next summer has in store.
"I will definitely be going back next year for the same thing," she said. "Just an internship to help out at the camps and the clinics."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow on Twitter @P_Strohecker