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The Maccabiah (Hebrew: מַכַּבִּיָּה) is an international Jewish athletic event, held in Israel every four years under the auspices of the Maccabi Federation, affiliated with the Maccabi World Union. The Maccabiah is often referred to as the "Jewish Olympics."
The third Maccabiah, scheduled for 1938, was delayed until 1950 due to the rise of Nazism in Europe and the outbreak of the Second World War. The opening ceremonies took place on September 27, 1950, in the 50,000 seat stadium in Ramat Gan. The Maccabiah has been a quadrennial event since 1957.
Maccabiah is open to Jewish athletes as well as Israeli athletes regardless of religion. Arab Israelis have also competed in it. The Maccabiah is a forum for Jewish athletes to meet and convene, it also provides these athletes with opportunities to explore Israel and Jewish history.
Originally conceived by Yosef Yekutieli, a 15-year-old inspired by the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, the Games were first held in 1932 after 14 years of development by Yekutieli and the Jewish National Fund. During the planning stages, the games were nicknamed the Maccabiyon, and 1932 was selected as the year to host the first games, marking the 1,800th anniversary of the Bar Kochba revolt.
To generate interest in the games, and collect donations with which to build a stadium in Tel Aviv (Maccabiah Stadium), a group of representatives traveled by motorcycle on two separate routes, promoting the games to different communities. The first was from Palestine to Syria, Turkey, Poland, Germany, France, and Belgium. The second from May 10 through July 16, 1931, went from Tel Aviv through the Sinai desert to Cairo and Alexandria in Egypt, and then proceeded by ship to Salonika in Greece, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Germany, and France, and by ferry to Brighton and the English cities of London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Leeds to Glasgow in Scotland, and home via Beirut in Lebanon.
The 1932 Maccabiah Games were opened on March 28, 1932, and about 400 sportsmen took part. The games were held in athletics, football, and swimming. The second games, 1935 Maccabiah Games, was held in April 1935, and about 1,350 athletes competed.
The 1997 Maccabiah Games were marred by a Maccabiah Bridge Disaster when a temporary bridge built for the march of athletes at the opening ceremony collapsed, plunging about 100 members of the Australian delegation into the polluted waters of Yarkon River. Four athletes were killed and 63 injured.
The 2005 Maccabiah Games attracted 900 representatives from the United States, 500 from Australia, and over 2,000 from Israel, bringing the total participants to more than 7,700. Israel finished at the top of the medal count with 227 gold medals. The United States was a distant second with 71 gold medals, while Russia came in third with 15.
The games, always held in Israel, are in fact three separate competitions – "Open," "Juniors," and "Masters". Every Israeli citizen and every Jew not an Israeli citizen, is eligible to compete in the games. Sports in the junior games are open to any qualifying athlete aged 15 to 18. Masters' sports are divided into a number of different age categories—generally for older competitors.
Unlike the Olympic games and other major international sporting events, the sport list for the Maccabiah Games is not set in stone. The "Basic Rules" of the Maccabiah Games state that competitions will only take place if four (three, in the case of all female sports, and junior team sports) countries bring competitors for that sport.
Among the Olympic gold medalists, world champions, and world record holders who have competed in the Maccabiah Games are Mark Spitz, Lenny Krayzelburg, Jason Lezak, and Marilyn Ramenofsky (swimming); Mitch Gaylord, Abie Grossfeld, Ágnes Keleti, Valery Belenky and Kerri Strug (gymnastics); Ernie Grunfeld, Danny Schayes, (coaches); Larry Brown, Jordan Freed, Nat Holman and Dolph Schayes (basketball); Carina Benninga (field hockey); Lillian Copeland, Gerry Ashworth, and Gary Gubner (track and field); Angela Buxton, Brad Gilbert, Julie Heldman, Allen Fox, Nicolás Massú, and Dick Savitt (tennis); Dave Blackburn (softball); Angelica Rozeanu (table tennis); Sergey Sharikov, Vadim Gutzeit and Mariya Mazina (fencing); Isaac Berger and Frank Spellman (weightlifting); and Fred Oberlander and Henry Wittenberg (wrestling); Madison Gordon-Lavaee (volleyball); Donald Spero (rowing); Bruce Fleisher (golf); and Adam Bacher (cricket); Boris Gelfand and Judith Polgar (chess); Elizabeth Foody (interpretive dance); Aaron R. Schwid (bowling); Irwin Cotler (ping pong); Marcelo Lipatin, Jeff Agoos and Jonathan Bornstein (association football), and Steve March Tormé (fast-pitch softball).
Squash became an official sport in the 10th Maccabiah Games in 1977. The competition was held at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, which had two courts that were covered by a tin roof and open to the air. That year, the United States team consisted of the top Jewish hardball squash players in the country. The team was led by Glenn Whitman, former captain and number one player at Harvard University. Other players included Len Bernheimer, a top ranked amateur who previously played in college at Williams, Roger Alcaly, and Bill Kaplan, captain of Harvard's varsity squash team.
Ice hockey entered the Maccabiah in 1997 with Canada winning the gold medal. The United States team was able to secure a silver place position. Ice hockey was not included in subsequent games but returned in 2013 as part of the 19th Maccabiah. The countries represented in three divisions were Canada, Israel, Russia, Ukraine and the USA. Canada won the Gold Medal in the Open Division after crushing USA 7-1. Canada also won the Gold Medal in the Juniors Division defeating USA 3-2. USA, however got some payback in the Masters Division as they defeated Canada 7-4, winning USA's first ever Gold Medal in Maccabiah Ice Hockey history.
- 03:21. "About Us". Maccabiah. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
- "Third Maccabiah Games". Today in Israeli History. Archived from the original on September 27, 2013 by Center for Israel Education.
- "Arab Israeli wins Maccabiah gold –". Ynetnews.com. 1995-06-20. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
- Maccabi World Union
- "The Maccabiah Games". Trincoll.edu. 1932-03-28. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
- Ahren, Raphael (2009-07-13). "2009 Maccabiah Games". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2013-08-11.
- 17th Maccabiah Basic Regulations[dead link]
- Jaret Grossman, creator of www.muscleprodigy.com will be competing in wrestling in the 2009 Games; The Maccabiah Games
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Maccabiah Games.|
- Official website
- TV report on the Maccabiah Games in Vienna (German)
- European Maccabi Games 2011 Official Website
- Summaries of each of the games at Jewish Sports
- Jewish swimmer to skip world championship for Maccabiah