by: Ilse Posselt
Friday, 07 July 2017 | It happens once every four years. From around the globe, the fastest, strongest and fittest of young Jewish sportsmen and women flock to the State of Israel to face each other on the track, across the field or in the ring for the Maccabiah Games.
Known as the Jewish Olympics, the 20th Maccabiah Games kicked off officially last night with a spectacular opening ceremony during which nearly 30,000 athletes, fans, friends and family filled Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium. Spirits were high as the crowd cheered on the 10,000 athletes, grouped by delegation, decked out in their country’s colors and carrying their national flag, pouring into the stadium.
Speaking with outstretched arms, President Reuven Rivlin bid the Jewish athletes and spectators from around the world a hearty, “Welcome home!”
“It is so great to see you here in Jerusalem, Israel’s capital city, rebuilt and free, at the opening of the 20th Maccabiah Games, commemorating fifty years since the liberation of Jerusalem,” the president said. “The time has come to pluck the fruits of fame, to elevate ourselves—not just physically—but also spiritually.”
“Beloved athletes, our country is your country. Our home is your home.”
Just like the Olympic Games, this Jewish multi-sport competition takes place every four years and is considered the world’s third largest sporting event. The name Maccabiah, which means, “hammer,” was chosen in honor of Judah Maccabee, who led the successful Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Ephiphanes, who forbid Jews from worshipping the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This year, the Maccabiah Games celebrate a record number of 10,000 athletes representing 80 countries from Singapore to Sweden and Australia to Albania in the 43 sporting events taking place over the next ten days. The competition has four categories, namely Youth, Open, Master and Paralympics. The largest delegation of athletes comes from Israel and the United States. This year, the Maccabiah Games also hold an added significance, as they coincide with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke after Rivlin and had a message of unity for international Jewry. “We are all one people. The Maccabiah is a game for the Maccabees… the Maccabees liberated our land against all others.”
“We are all descendants of the Maccabees,” Netanyahu said. “We suffered the greatest tragedies in the history of man. Yet we came back.”
While the opening event took place last night, the competition started in earnest on Tuesday and a number of rugby, ice hockey, softball, tennis and golf matches have already taken place throughout the week.
The majority of matches and events are organized with the host city, Jerusalem, as the center. Yet a number of other competitions will also take place in the 68 other sporting complexes located in towns and cities all over Israel.
The official slogan of this year’s games, “80 countries, one heart,” is aimed at highlighting the unity among the Jewish community across the globe.
Posted on July 7, 2017
Source: (Bridges for Peace, 07 July 2017)
Photo Credit: Screenshot/Youtube/SylvainBlumenfrucht
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