July 20, 2017: Maccabiah Games

The Maccabiah Games used to attract the best athletes from around the world.

Letters (photo credit: REUTERS)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The motto of the Olympic Games is Citius, altius, fortius – Faster, higher, stronger.
For this Maccabiah Games I could suggest Tarditas, inferius, fragilitas – Slower, lower, weaker, as for the past 40 years, the regression in athletic terms has been quite remarkable.
The Maccabiah Games used to attract the best athletes from around the world – even according full international status in some countries – but most high caliber athletes don’t bother to come because the cachet of “Maccabiah champion” is not what it used to be.
Furthermore, they are expected to self-fund their trip to Israel at an inflated cost, especially in the case of UK athletes.
Clearly, the funding of the Maccabiah Games is not working for the benefit of the sport, but for other goals.
The Maccabiah ideals of encouraging aliya through sport are commendable, but true international sportsmen and women realize they are not the focus and thus it’s not “the winning,” but “the taking part” attitude that precludes their participation.
The quality of the track and field is now so poor that the results of most of the events wouldn’t even feature in the top 1,000 in world terms. I write as a former triple Maccabiah champion from both 1981 and 1985. Both my records, at 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters, still stand. At this rate, they might never be broken.
Herzliya Pituah
The writer, originally from the UK, was a middle-distance runner.
Glancing through the team lists of many of the participating countries, and listening to the spectators at the various sporting events, one fact became obvious: Many non- Jews participated in the 2017 Maccabiah Games.
While watching the rugby game between the South African and Israeli open men’s teams, I made two extremely disturbing discoveries. The first was that the vast majority of the members of the South African team were not even nominally Jewish, but were apparently selected because they were good rugby players fortunate enough to have a Jewish parent, grandparent or, in one case, great-grandparent. I was informed that the US team was selected using the same criteria, although I was unable to confirm this.
This phenomenon was not restricted to rugby, but was evident in other sporting disciplines as well.
The other astounding fact emanating from the games is that Israel did not field its best rugby team, instead resting these players for the coming European International Competition.
All of this draws one to make the following conclusions: From the Diaspora perspective, winning a medal is more important than the Maccabiah ideal of fostering Jewish fellowship through sport, while from the Israeli perspective, success at the Maccabiah Games is not of sufficient importance. This raises the question as to whether the games, in their present format, have become irrelevant.
The Maccabiah Games should once again be a global sporting event for the Jewish people, with an emphasis on Jewish fellowship and learning about and experiencing life in Israel, the only Jewish country in the world. My view, and that of many of the Jewish spectators I discussed this with, is that it is far more important to field a Jewish team even though it might be a weaker team, with an emphasis on pride in competing in what is called the “Jewish Olympics.”
Hod Hasharon
It amazed me to see the lack of media coverage of the 20th Maccabiah Games.
Thousands of Jewish athletes from all over the world invested time, effort and a huge amount of motivation to be able to come and participate in this biggest Jewish sporting event: our own Jewish Olympics! The communities worked hard in the planning and execution to provide the financial backing that would bring these athletes to compete. Hundreds more came to provide technical support or cheer for their loved ones.
This represents visitors to our country who use hotels, transportation, food facilities and more, thereby boosting our economy. Some might even come back, stay and make aliya.
It has happened in the past.
Isn’t all this important enough to deserve more coverage in the media than just a small mention in the sport pages? Had it been a Christian delegation from anywhere, it would certainly have appeared in all the media.
Different twist
What exactly does the Left hope to gain from its constant denial of the Jewish people’s full historic rights to the Land of Israel?
Your July 17 editorial “Preventing an explosion” is a case in point.
You are so obviously in favor of the “share” mantra. I am amazed that you actually think that Jordan’s King Abdullah, who publicly criticized Israel’s decision to close the Temple Mount, should have shown “deference to his alliance with Israel.” What deference? What alliance? They get everything. We get humiliation.
You write: “So far, our prime minister has acted responsibly, ignoring calls by some on the Right to change the status quo, and instead working with Israel’s Arab neighbors to prevent additional violence. That policy should continue. Irrational fears and religious fanaticism cannot be allowed to win.” In other words, keep up the groveling and concessions to the murderers so that those people who have the temerity to stand up for the just rights of our people in our land are subdued.
The fact that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu re-opened the Temple Mount in such a short time speaks volumes as to his commitment to the Muslims, Jordan and US President Donald Trump. But where do we, the Jewish people, fit into all of this? The answer is we do not – and that is where the problem lies.
If you behave like an occupier of Arab land, then expect only condemnation. Conversely, behave with faith and pride in being the people that returned to its historic homeland, and the narrative will take on a different twist.
Let’s keep trying
Faydra Shapiro’s “Our Druse neighbors” (Comments & Features, July 17) is a reminder that human beings are not all the same nor are they equal (except, it is said, in the eyes of God), and that efforts constantly have to be made to get closer to others.
Most citizens have low expectations of peace with our neighbors (although the definition of “peace” is relative). But please, let’s not stop trying. We could start with something simple, like being courteous to other drivers.
Like Ms. Shapiro, let’s surprise our neighbors: Attack them with a nice word. Most won’t know how to handle it, but some will get used to it and pass it on. And let’s have more neighbors like her.
Tel Aviv
Vegan revolution
As president emeritus of Jewish Veg, formerly Jewish Vegetarians of North America, I was very pleased to read your very comprehensive “Children big benefactors in vegan-friendly Israel” (July 12), with the subheading: “Health, compassion for animals drive growing move to plant-based diet.”
It is to Israel’s great credit that it has a higher percentage of vegans than any other country. I hope the “vegan revolution” continues and expands because it is the diet most consistent with Jewish teachings on preserving human health, treating animals with compassion, protecting the environment, conserving natural resources and helping hungry people.