It's Not Just About Sports at the International Jewish Olympics

July 05, 2009

Source: Israel 21c


The opening ceremony of the 18th Maccabiah will take place on July 13, 2009 at the national stadium in Ramat Gan. President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu will open the ceremony. The Maccabiah has organized various sporting events in more than 30 locations all around the country, from Maalot and Tiberias in the north, to Kibbutz Urim in the south, which will span over 10 days, making this the biggest Maccabiah in history. 5300 Jewish athletes from around the world plus 2000 Israelis are expected to take place in the games, which makes the Maccabiah the 3rd largest sporting event in the world, after the Olympics and the University games.


Always held in Israel, the games include three separate competitions: Open, Juniors, and Masters, and every Israeli citizen, and every Jewish person from around the world is eligible to compete.


This year participation is expected to come from Jewish people representing some 50 different countries.


At a recent press conference, Igal Carmi, Chairman of Maccabi World Union, discussed how the Maccabiah is perceived by the overseas participants. "For them, this is a sporting event. What is important to the participant is to come and take part in competitions… They take this very seriously and they very much want to win. The most important thing about the Maccabiah games is the competitiveness."


Carmi also mentioned the Zionist-Jewish value of the Maccabiah, and the immense importance of having an event in which participants identify so strongly with Israel, and given that there are so many participants from so many countries who will be participating. In his words, "Tens of thousands of people are coming to Israel this summer in order to proclaim, 'We love the State of Israel and embrace her, we belong to the same nation.' This is not something to be taken lightly. For many of the athletes, this will be the first Jewish experience in their lives."


The Maccabiah is held in Israel every four years under the auspices of the Maccabi Federation, a part of the Maccabi World Union. It is sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and World Federation of Sports.


Since 1932, the Games have been held roughly every four years. The third Maccabiah Games, scheduled for 1938, were delayed until 1950 due to the rise of Nazism in Europe and the outbreak of the Second World War. The Maccabiah Games have been a quadrennial event since 1957.

Updated: Jul. 13, 2009