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As 21st ‘Jewish Olympics’ kick off in Israel, organizers set sights on wooing sabras


Greater than 10,000 members from 60 international locations will descend on Israel over the subsequent two weeks for the twenty first Maccabiah Video games, the quadrennial “Jewish Olympics” first held in 1932.
After a one-year delay as a result of coronavirus pandemic, this would be the largest Maccabiah ever held, with greater than 30,000 particular person competitions throughout 42 sports activities. Festivities start on Thursday night with the opening ceremony at Teddy Stadium, the place United States President Joe Biden will doubtlessly tackle the group.
Regardless of being held in Israel roughly half the time, the Maccabiah Video games aren’t as standard within the Jewish state as organizers would really like. In an effort to attach the broader Israeli public to the competitors, this 12 months’s theme is “Sports activities Celebration in Israel,” stated Roy Hessing, Maccabiah CEO.

“The explanation why we began this sports activities occasion is to make the connections between Israel and the Diaspora stronger,” stated Hessing.
However this 12 months, there’s a bigger emphasis on bringing the competitions and events to the native sabras, with greater than 80 occasions open to the general public, stated Hessing. He added that the Maccabiah determined to carry occasions in Israel’s largest sports activities arenas in an effort to accommodate extra spectators and that most of the standard occasions, together with swimming, motocross, and ice hockey, are already offered out.

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Public occasions and actions embody the eight-day “Maccabiah Village” festivities at Netanya’s Poleg Seashore, an evening run in Jerusalem, a sports activities and know-how honest in Tel Aviv’s velodrome, and numerous events throughout the nation.

Illustrative: Runners participate within the Maccabiah Evening Run subsequent to the partitions of Jerusalem’s Previous Metropolis on July 10, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Sports activities followers can comply with together with dwell protection on the Maccabiah web site. Some choose occasions, together with the opening ceremony, will air on Channel 12.
Israel can have the biggest delegation, with 1,700 members, adopted by the USA with 1,400 members, Argentina with 800 members, and Canada with 700 members. Individuals embody athletes, coaches, help employees, and, in some circumstances, households. Globally, there are greater than 450,000 Jewish athletes concerned in sporting occasions with the Maccabi World Union.

There are six new sports activities added to the roster for the reason that final Maccabiah Video games, together with 3×3 basketball, sport climbing, seashore volleyball, padel (a racket sport that’s the mixture of squash and tennis), motocross, and browsing. The Maccabiah can be contemplating including ninja — an impediment course sport that has swept Israel and the world — to future Video games.
In an additional try to succeed in broader audiences, Maccabiah occasions can be held within the Druze village of Daliyat al Carmel for the primary time — however the transfer is barely supposed to succeed in spectators, not athletes. As a result of the Maccabiah is aimed toward Jewish opponents, Druze athletes will stay ineligible to compete even in future Video games.
There are a variety of nations collaborating within the Maccabiah for the primary time, together with the Bahamas with eight athletes — 4 in padel, and 4 golfers. There are additionally 45 athletes with the Ukrainian delegation, whose journey was absolutely sponsored by the Maccabi World Union and European Maccabi Convention.

Illustrative: The Australian delegation takes half within the opening ceremony of the twentieth Maccabiah Video games in Jerusalem, July 6, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Russian and Belarusian Maccabi delegations withdrew from the Video games after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
This 12 months, there can be one other new delegation marching below the flag of “olim,” or new immigrants to Israel.
“We’d like their participation in an effort to enhance competitions or to avoid wasting competitions. They’re coming from Ethiopia, from Ukraine, from Russia, from Mexico, from the USA — we’re trying worldwide for individuals who have made aliyah,” Hessing stated, utilizing the Hebrew time period for shifting to Israel.

Roy Hessing, CEO (Maccabiah / Courtesy)

Any Jewish athletes with twin citizenship can take part as a part of the olim workforce.
Hessing stated that 5 p.c of Maccabiah athletes find yourself immigrating to Israel after competing, and any athletes who transfer to Israel inside a 12 months and a half of the Video games are eligible for added grants from the Aliyah and Integration Ministry.
On Wednesday, the Ministry introduced a fund for Maccabiah athletes who transfer to Israel, together with extra Hebrew instruction, help for research or vocational coaching, and grants for entrepreneurs.
“As in each Maccabiah, hundreds of Jews from throughout the Diaspora are arriving in Israel and they’re going to have a significant alternative to satisfy the truth of Israel, to get to know the nation, to journey round and strengthen their bond to this place,” stated Aliyah and Integration Minister Pnina Tamano-Shata. “The Maccabiah occasions are a golden alternative to encourage aliyah and reveal ourselves to the younger individuals from all the world communities who will turn out to be the longer term Israelis.”
Your entire value of the Maccabiah is round NIS 200 million ($57.6 million), Hessing stated, which comes from contributions from numerous authorities and personal sector sponsors, in addition to cost from particular person members. Individuals from the USA and Canada, for instance, paid round $8,000 for his or her journeys. Hessing stated the ten,000 guests are anticipated to generate round NIS 350 million ($100 million) for the Israeli financial system throughout their go to.

Chelsey Goldberg speaks at a press convention in Kfar Maccabiah, Ramat Gan, on July 12, 2022. (Melanie Lidman)

One of many individuals most excited for the Video games to kick off is Chelsey Goldberg, knowledgeable ladies’s hockey participant from California. For the previous two Maccabiah Video games, Goldberg has watched her twin brother play, however there was no ladies’s workforce and organizers wouldn’t let her play on the lads’s workforce.
Undeterred, Goldberg spent years recruiting feminine Jewish hockey gamers to fill the rosters for 3 groups — from Israel, Canada, and the USA — bringing ladies’s hockey to the Maccabiah for the primary time.
“It’s a really particular feeling having the ability to mix my spiritual background and athletic background,” Goldberg stated, forward of the opening ceremony. “I feel it’s so highly effective to satisfy so many different Jewish athletes which can be combating for a similar factor and have the identical objective in thoughts.”

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