This year’s Maccabiah has brought 9,000 athletes from across the globe to Israel and with it, generations of athletes who have passed the torch to the future of the Jewish nation.

Many teams arrived with proud parents who themselves had partaken in past Maccabiahs and returned to Israel to watch their children participate in the various sports taking place around the country.

After moving to Israel in the late 1970’s, Jeff Brown participated in the first softball Maccabiah in 1981 on behalf of the Israeli team before returning to America, where he currently lives in Los Angeles.

“We had put together a softball team a few years earlier so when we heard that the sport was being added to the Maccabiah list, all the teams in the area chose their top players and we began practicing.”

Though his parents weren’t able to attend, his adoptive parents and friends from Kibbutz Mishmar HaEmek and his new community in the city joined in the celebrations.

Following in his father’s footsteps, Aren Brown joined the Israeli softball team after making aliya a few years ago.

His journey to Israel also began on a kibbutz and continued on to the IDF.

Though unlike his father, Aren said he does not plan on returning to the United States and has made Israel his home.

“I love where I am, and I love that I get to join in the Jewish and Israeli tradition that connects us to each other and connects us to the country,” said Aren right before he ran off to start his game against Canada.

“I am excited that we get to play people from all corners of the globe!” As the first pitch took place and the crowd cheered, Jeff turned his head to say, “I was thrilled to hear that my son would be playing in the Maccabiah, so that same day I booked a ticket.

“I’m proud that my children have the same love and passion for Israel that I had and still hold within me, my son with the Maccabiah and his bright future here in Israel and my daughter who also made aliya a few years ago and now works closely with Taglit Birthright and hopes to better the country for all its citizens.”

In a different area of the country closer to Jerusalem, another proud father has made his journey back to Israel after 36 years.

“I played in the soccer Maccabiah in 1977,” said Sam Arsht excitedly, “and [I] am extremely proud that my son will share in the same experience and similar feelings that I had. It’s special that he has the opportunity to feel connected to his homeland and Judaism.”

The Arsht family has come to Israel from San Diego as a part of a Maccabiah mission which takes families of the players for day-tours in between games.

He has come along with his wife, Denise, who is in Israel for the first time, and his 82-year-old mother, Judy, who hasn’t been back to the country since 1985.

Sam continued by saying that “although my youngest son isn’t here with us, as he is looking forward to his own Birthright trip with friends, it is special for us to be here together. Israel is so different than what I remember and we are thrilled to rediscover it.”

His older son, Alec, attended Taglit Birthright last summer and expressed his excitement for the games as well as his hope win the gold in the soccer tournament with Team USA.

“I had the most amazing experience last year and knew I had to get back here, so when I got an invitation to try out for the Maccabiah I couldn’t refuse. I am thankful to be back, and hope to come again and again.”

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