Hearts pounded and spectators were on the edge of their seats as the 20th Anniversary of the Maccabiah games began. The games celebrate the best Jewish athletes from around the globe which includes 80 different countries. A total of 10,000 athletes are competing for over 2,100 medals at this years games. The elite athletes are competing in 47 different sports which is being televised and watched by millions.
The Maccabiah games is the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition in the tradition and values of Maccabi, emphasizing the centrality of the State of Israel in the life of the Jewish people. The Maccabiah games takes place every four years in Israel, the first Maccabiah Games started on March 28, 1932. The Maccabiah Stadium in Tel Aviv, which was built with donations, was filled to capacity to watch the first games with roughly 400 athletes from 18 countries taking part in a multitude of sports such as swimming, football, and handball.Today as the games celebrate their 20th anniversary it is now the third-largest sporting event in the world and is known to many as the “Jewish Olympics.”
The Maccabiah games are being played in various cities throughout Israel, however the majority of competitions will take place in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Just like at the Olympics, the Maccabiah games started with an opening ceremony which includes a “Parade of Nations.” During this spectacular show and event most participating athletes marched into the stadium, country by country. The countries entered the stadium in accordance with the Hebrew alphabet. In following of the Maccabiah tradition, the Israeli delegation entered last.
At every Maccabiah there us also a big surprise and this year’s edition was no different as a wedding took place on the spot after a Canadian ice hockey player proposed to his girlfriend who had converted to Judaism. The bride to be dressed up in her wedding gown and his teammates held the Huppah in the traditional ceremony.
The Maccabiah games facilitates a worldwide gathering of young Jewish athletes in Israel, and strengthens the athletes connection to the State of Israel and the Jewish people. The athletes while in Israel have opportunities to tour the land of Israel which allows for a memorable experience comprised of competitive sports, building relationships, sharing experiences and taking part in cultural events. The 20th Maccabiah 2017 is the biggest and probably most successful thus far.