19th Maccabiah opens in Jerusalem

Published on Thursday, 18 July 2013 by Marina Rozhansky

19th Maccabiah opens in Jerusalem
The Maccabiah - "the Jewish Olympics" as they are often called - takes place every four years in Israel, emphasizing the centrality of the State of Israel in the life of the Jewish people.

The opening ceremony of the19th Maccabiah, with 9,000 athletes from 78 countries, will open at Jerusalem's renovated Teddy Stadium on Thursday, July 18.

Athletes will compete in 42 different sports, including seven added to the 19th Maccabiah: Archery, ice hockey, handball, shooting, open water swimming, bridge and badminton. The Paralympic events will include tennis, table tennis, cycling, swimming and wheelchair basketball.

The Maccabiah - "the Jewish Olympics" as they are often called - takes place every four years in Israel, emphasizing the centrality of the State of Israel in the life of the Jewish people. It is the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition and the third largest sporting event worldwide, after the Olympics and the World Student Games.

In addition to being competitive, the sports competitions are also dedicated to the values of fair play, mutual respect, victory of body, intellect, and the pursuit of excellence.

History of the games

The Maccabi movement, established in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century, first organized Jewish sporting endeavor. By 1914 there were over 100 Maccabi and other clubs across Europe, and the largest of these clubs - Hakoah of Vienna, Bar Kochba of Berlin, M.T.K. of Budapest and Hagibor of Prague - produced some of the continent's most outstanding teams, including soccer sides that played in their country's top divisions.
In 1932 the first Maccabiah, the international Jewish Olympics, sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, were held in what was then Palestine. The games were opened by Tel Aviv Mayor Meir Dizengoff, who rode through the streets of Tel Aviv on a white horse. The opening ceremony witnessed the release of 120 carrier pigeons, 10 pigeons for each of the 12 tribes of Israel, whose mission was to send to the world news of the opening of the first Maccabiah games. Almost 400 athletes from 18 countries participated, including over 60 athletes from Arab countries such as Syria and Egypt.

The second Maccabiah took place in 1935 with similar participation. Many athletes stayed in the country, preferring not to return to a Europe threatened by the Nazis.

In 1950, after World War II, the Maccabiah Games resumed with the 3rd Maccabiah Games, this time in the independent State of Israel. Twenty countries sent a total of 800 athletes. The opening parade and track and field events were held in the new 50,000-spectator stadium in Ramat Gan, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli President Chaim Weizmann opened the Games, and Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion told the competitors: “Existence in our ancestral home requires physical might no less than intellectual excellence.”

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