Proud Scotland competes at Maccabiah for first time

British team supports initiative bringing 13 competitors to Israel to represent the blue and white.

Maccabiah 18 opening ceremony 248.88 ap (photo credit: AP)
Maccabiah 18 opening ceremony 248.88 ap
(photo credit: AP)
For the first time in the history of the Maccabiah Games, Scotland has sent its own delegation to compete - independent of the Great Britain team. "The idea for having our own delegation came when it was recognized that for the Maccabiah to be meaningful and relevant to the small Jewish community in Scotland we had to have our own team," said David Shenkin, head of the Scottish delegation. The team from the north of the UK comprises of 13 competitors, participating in tennis, table tennis, squash and golf. At the opening ceremony the delegation proudly marched into Ramat Gan stadium wearing traditional Scottish kilts. Maccabi Great Britain has fully supported the initiative according to Martin Berliner, its chief executive. "The basis was to try and recruit as many athletes in the UK as possible, and to keep a small community going," Berliner said. Jeremy Banks, manager of the Scottish table tennis team, described the feeling of the team at the ceremony. "We were superstars for the day… we were very warmly received and added to the tremendous atmosphere and togetherness of the games," he recalled Scottish Jews are a dwindling population numbering around 6,000, a figure that is consistently falling. This was stressed by Banks, who commented that, "It [the Maccabiah] raises the profile of Scotland's Jewish community, particularly important as we are facing a constantly reducing number of Jews." The masters table tennis team have performed particularly well, picking up the bronze medal in the team category. Demonstrating the ambition of the team, Banks was not satisfied with this, saying, "We were hoping to do better, we did not play as well as we can and narrowly lost to Russia, who went on to win the gold." Banks has previously played for the British table tennis team which he described as "an absolute privilege." "But playing for Scotland is something different, I'm very proud," Banks added. It was hoped that the delegation would have numbered around 45, however the economic crisis meant a number of competitors were forced to pull out. The entry of a Scottish soccer team was highly anticipated and was only prevented from doing so, due to injuries to some of the team's key players. Asked whether this could have a wider impact on Scottish independence, Shenkin said, "I doubt this will have any impact on Scottish devolution, although we have received financial support from the Scottish government at the end of the day politics shouldn't come into sport." So perhaps a name change will now be need for the British team? Berliner was adamant there is no need. "I don't think that would be necessary, we've still got the odd Welsh player," he said.