August 2009

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News and Opinion

I8th Maccabiah Games Draws 8,000 Athletes to Israel
United States Sends Largest Delegation Ever

-- Ellen G. Witman

The 18th Maccabiah Games took place in Israel from July 13 through July 2, 2009. Approximately 8,000 Jewish athletes from 60 around the world participated in the “Jewish Olympics,” as the Maccabiah Games are frequently called.

Maccabiah USA sent more than 900 athletes to compete in 28 of the 31 official sports. It was the second largest delegation; only Israel, with 2000 competitors, was larger. Most of the American team members arrived several days early to participate in a tour of the country and special events that were planned for them including a group bar mitzvah in the amphitheater of Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a welcome reception at the home of Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

A scene from the opening ceremony of the 18th Maccabiah Games (photo:ynetnews.com)

Among the US athletes were swimmer Jason Lezak, winner of seven Olympic medals including a gold medal from the 2008 Olympics in Beijing for the 400 –meter freestyle relay, and Tracy and Josh Bienenfeld, brother and sister soccer players from the Philadelphia area and the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Lezak received much media attention for his decision to forego competition in the World Championships of Swimming in order to swim in the Maccabiah Games and travel to Israel for his first visit. He was given the honor of lighting the torch at the opening ceremony in Ramat Gan outside of Tel Aviv.

By the last day of the games, the Israeli athletes had garnered 628 medals, 239 of them gold, and the United States had 255 medals including 84 gold. Complete results for all of the sports, can be found at http://www.maccabiusa.com/ along with photos of the games.

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