The 20th Maccabiah – Let the Games Begin


I am not a great athlete, but if I were I believe my dream would have been to compete at the Maccabiah Games. Many of you reading this post will know exactly what I am talking about and many of you are thinking to yourself, um, what is she talking about?

Maccabiah, known sometimes as the “Jewish Olympics,” is the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition. It takes place every four years in Israel, going all the way back to 1932. Self-described as a competition that emphasizes the “centrality of the State of Israel in the life of the Jewish people,” it is the largest event undertaken by the Maccabi World Union.

This year’s Maccabiah games are happening NOW in Israel, from July 4-18. The 2017 edition is the biggest one ever, with about 10,000 athletes participating from over 80 countries. Athletes, coaches, volunteers and fans are not just there for the competition but also to create new relationships and find common ground in their love of Israel and the Jewish People.

I only attended one Maccabiah Games, back in 2005, with a group of Canadian journalists. The opening ceremonies were vibrant and memorable, and our group saved our biggest cheers for the Canadian delegation. The stadium was packed with thousands of supporters and the energy was electric.  I am sure that twelve years later the feeling is the same.

The one picture I took in 2005 at the opening ceremonies

The actual Maccabiah Games are structured like any other international multi-sport competition, with venues around the country, over a period of two weeks.  There is everything from track and field and gymnastics to softball and even ice hockey.  There are four competitive groups. The Junior section is for athletes aged 15-18; the Masters is divided into various age categories for older competitors; the Open division is for all ages with different sports following their own governing rules; finally, there are the Paralympics.

The athletes compete by delegation, so if I participated I would be part of the Canadian team. This is the 18th Maccabiah for Canada, who first participated in the 1950 Games.

The Canadian Junior team arrived in Israel last week and spent the first few days touring the country and getting to know the land and its people. The rest of the Canadian delegation arrived a few days later, and they are all now together in Israel competing.

The Canadian squad quickly got in the win column playing ice hockey, and the athletes are working hard in other sports this week, including tennis, baseball, soccer and golf. Follow Maccabi Canada HERE or check out results HERE for all delegations and all sports.

Canadian men’s open soccer team (photo thanks to Maccabi Canada)
Men’s softball team photo (thanks to Dan Berlin back row on the left)

The opening ceremonies are happening right now at the Jerusalem Teddy Stadium, as I write this, and I am about to click HERE to watch the event live.

Canadian Men’s Softball team at the opening ceremonies (photo thanks to Dan Berlin)

I wish the best of luck to all athletes participating in the 20th Maccabiah Games, and of course, go Team Canada!