Brothers Sam and Philip Stulman may have spent their Fourth of July in Israel, but they couldn’t have celebrated their country in a more patriotic way.
On that day, the two made entrances at the opening ceremonies for the 20th Maccabiah Games.
“It was amazing,” Sam, a rising senior, said. “We walked out and it was a whole crowd of people, like 20,000 people just chanting ‘USA.’ It was a breathtaking experience.”
By the end of the Games, each sibling walked out with a gold medal in hand.
Sam competed on USA’s baseball team, while his younger brother Philip, a rising junior, played soccer. Both brothers attended and played for Albert Einstein Academy last year, but are moving to Valencia High for the upcoming season.
USA baseball went undefeated in the preliminary rounds, then beat Canada 10-0 in the finals. Sam both pitched and played the field.
“Playing this high level of competition really helped me learn new techniques and helped me to compete better as a player,” Sam said. “It was hard, but it really improved myself as a player.”
Philip faced 13 soccer teams at the Maccabiah Games, which are held every four years.
He said Israel’s team provided some of the toughest competition and had players from the Israeli national team on the roster. Argentina, a country filled with natural soccer talent, was also a challenge.
But USA marched on to the finals, and beat Brazil 3-2 for the gold.
“When the ref blew his whistle, I could see joy in everyone’s faces and even though the fans from Brazil didn’t really like it, the U.S. fans got loud and it was a great moment for myself and my team,” Philip said.
Sam and Philip arrived in Israel on June 22 to prepare with their teammates and see the country. Their tour included climbing to vantage points in Jerusalem and visiting Hezekiah’s Tunnel in the City of David.
“It was just very cool to think that you went to a place that was involved a long time ago,” said Philip.
“This was the best experience of my life, probably, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” Philip said. “All the people that I met on this trip, all the memories I made, I will never forget them.”