Macabiah: The Zionist Olympics

maccabiah 2017 logoIn 1912, during the Olympic Games in Stockholm, the adolescent Yosef Yekutieli, of Belarusian origin but emigrated to Palestine, had a vision: Jews needed their own Olympics. For years it called innumerable doors and collided with so many obstacles. In 1921 he created the Macabi International Union, a sports organization that pays homage to Judas Macabeo and his brothers, the national heroes who in the second century BC. C. proclaimed the first independent Jewish kingdom, in whose memory Hanukkah is celebrated every year. Two expeditions of young people on motorcycles toured Europe, from Tel Aviv to Antwerp in 1930 and London in 1931, announcing the celebration of the first Macabiada in 1932. It was 5692 of the Hebrew calendar. It was inaugurated in March and participated athletes of 17 nationalities. Since then, it is a timely appointment: every four years in Israel and every other year in other countries. Swimmer Mark Spitz and NBA coach Larry Brown are some of his old glories. These days, the 20th edition of the Jewish ‘Olympiads’ brings together 10,000 athletes from 80 nations in Jerusalem. Forty sports modalities are disputed in 68 sports complexes by all the country.

Fifty of them are Spanish Jews. “It is the third most important sporting event in the world because of the number of people who move after the Olympics and the Universiade, but in Spain it is still very unknown,” laments Kevin Estiz, president of the organization in our country. Perhaps because the Hebrew community in Spain, about 45,000 people, is relatively small compared to the United States, 5 million, or France, about 500,000. “In other countries the participants receive more support from the state and sports federations,” says Estiz. We hope that, little by little, the Macabiada will become more popular. After all, we represent Spain in an international event. “

Zionist Macabiada

Apart from reaffirming its national identity through sport, it was a reaction to anti-Semitism in the years leading up to World War II.

Veto in Berlin 1936

The fencer Helene Mayer, exiled in the USA by its Jewish origin, competed for the Nazi Germany and, when collecting its silver, greeted to Hitler arm raised. Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, Jews and members of the American relay team, were replaced at the last minute.

Blood in Munich 1972

On September 5, eleven Israeli athletes were killed in the assault on the nine-member Olympic Village of Black September, a faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Competitions continued and several Arab countries complained that the flags waved at half-mast. In the memorial for the deceased, the IOC president did not mention the victims, who were not honored until the Rio 2016 Games. London 2012 refused to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the massacre with a minute of silence.

The truth is that since the opening of the games at Teddy Stadium on July 6, with more than 30,000 spectator enthusiasts in the stands, Jerusalem is a party. The city, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of its reunification this year, is a hive of young people who speak different languages ​​but have “one heart”, as the motto of the meeting says. Apart from competing, contestants take advantage of Israel’s main tourist attractions and live with other athletes who share their religion, although they come from the most diverse cultures. “Sport, respect, tolerance and positive values ​​are breathed”, says the representative of the Spanish delegation. And security? “Everything is very careful. You do not realize it, but you know that you are always protected, “adds Estiz.

Ronaldo’s son
Although the essential condition for participating in games is to be a follower of the Torah, each country has its own selection criteria. Brazilian laxity, for example, has allowed the U-18 soccer team to play Ronald, the son of former star Ronaldo Luís Nazario de Lima. The boy and his mother belong to the Hebraica club in Sao Paolo and “have been getting closer to Judaism more and more”, justifies Avi Gelberg, president of Macabi Brazil.

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