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Tag: Maccabiah Games

18th Maccabiah Games Are On

The 18th Maccabiah Games, Israel’s Jewish Olympiad, are finally here; and judging from the number of registered athletes and other visitors, the two week event promises to be even bigger and better than previous ones with various sporting events taking place all over the country. As in previous Maccabiah venues, the big challenge is being able to see the various events that are being offered, as they are literally scattered around at various sports centers and stadiums, including Jerusalem, Haifa, Tiberius, Caesarea, Netanya, Metro Tel Aviv area, etc., etc.

And the 5,300 foreign and 2,000 Israeli athletes who will be participating in all the various events, including football and Rugby, fencing, basketball, cricket, tennis, judo, track & field, baseball and softball, and more mundane venues like lawn bowls, chess, and table tennis, will likewise be scattered all over in hotels and guest hostels, sport center lodgings, and even home hospitality.

The logistical aspects of these games differ considerably from the Olympiad, in that there is no central Olympic Village for the foreign athletes to stay in, resulting in their being billeted in various places. There is also no central dining facilities, and since many athletes require special diets (depending on the events they participate in) and have various eating schedules (also due to competition event scheduling), feeding all these people is a challenge in itself.

Ramat Gan StadiumMany events are occurring well before the opening ceremony in Ramat Gan National Stadium on July 13th. Some of these include volleyball and other beach events in Nahariya, Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Ashkdelon. Rugby and some football games will be held on Sunday, July 12. Maccabiah organizers are very pleased that there is a 20% increase in participating athletes despite the ongoing global economic recession. That in itself is a reason to celebrate, many organizers are saying. Although many events require admission tickets, a number of events are free, including the volleyball and other beach events, which means you can combine these with your weekend beach outing. And also in contrary to the Olympiad, many events are for people 50+ and are also suitable for non-athletes (chess, for example).

Some special athletes and sportsmen who will be attending this year’s Maccabiah include American Jewish swimmer Jason Lezak, who won seven medals in three Olympic Games (the swimming events will be held 19-22 July at the Wingate Institute). Argentine football referee Horacio Elizondo, who was the referee for the Final of the World cup tournament in Germany between Italy and France, will serve as the referee at the football tournament; Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton who will be the special guest of the British football team and world chess Grand Master Boris Gelfand.

Israeli Maccabiah games

Maccabiah opening ceremoniesThe 17th Maccabiah games (AKA. Jewish Olympics) started this week, an event that happens every 4 years. Over 7,000 athletes from 55 countries will participate in the events. The ceremony was impressive, big, colorful and uniquely Israeli, a real world class events with a reported 30,000 in attendance. Run loosely along Olympic guidelines, the 11-day event includes athletics, swimming, football and tennis as well as lawn bowls, chess, bridge, netball and cricket.

The opening ceremonies were attended by senior members of government, all sitting behind bulletproof glass, of course. Sharon in his address basically tried to encourage Aliyah (a permanent return to Israel) and took the opportunity to blatantly tell the athletes to basically stick around when the games are all done. There is traditionally a certain percentage of athletes that remains after these events and the big man was trying his best convince them to stay.

And now for something completely out there, Shas Party (the main religious party) Chairman, Eli Yishai, attacked the 17th Maccabiah management for desecrating Shabbat by requiring personnel to work on Saturday to prepare for the dress rehearsal of the opening ceremony. He said their actions were a “disgrace” that crossed red lines. Yishai said a worker told him he and his friends had to start preparing for Saturday night’s dress rehearsal before the end of Shabbat.

The worker refused to reveal his identity out of fear they would lose their jobs. Funnily enough it seems that this employee would rather keep his Shabbat desecrating job then quit though – interesting. Maccabiah spokespeople responded by saying, “We would be happy to see Yishai among the Knesset Members and government ministers that will partake in this international event.”, in short telling Yishai to take a flying leap.

Netanya suicide attackUnfortunately, the next day after the opening ceremonies a suicide bomber drove into the center of Netanyah, approximately 35 minutes from Tel Aviv, blowing up, killing 4 women and wounding 90 people. The blast took place outside a busy downtown shopping mall.
An hour earlier, the Dutch soccer team attending the Maccabiah games left that same mall for soccer practice. The team is staying at a local Netanyah hotel and after the blast several team members said they wanted to go home. Several forum posts on local news sites suggested the players try London..

Their team manager said, “Most of our players are in shock, and we do not know how they will deal with it. Most of them want to leave Israel as soon as possible, because they are not used to such a thing. I will try to convince them to stay for the games, but it is their individual decision.”

Netherland players looking pale

And in all this, a truly great story, an Israeli Arab teenage girl from the town of Sakhnin became one of the first medalists in this year’s Maccabiah Games with a victory in the women’s 200-meter breastroke in the Wingate Institute pool, causing a wave of pride in her father, family and community.

Asala wins a gold medal

Halaj Shahada, proud father of Asala, 17, said there would be celebrations in Sakhnin following her gold medal win. “The Maccabiah belongs not only to all the Jews, but also to all the Israelis, and I am a proud Israeli,” Asala said.

Israeli Olympics, never a dull moment.

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