The Maccabiahh is a series of athletic competitions for Jews throughout the
world that are held in Israel. The goal of the Maccabiah is to promote the physical strength of Jews
while fostering a sense of nationalism among Jewish athletes. Like the International Olympics, the Maccabiah is held every four
is named for the Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee who fought against the ancient
Greeks. Many notable Jewish athletes have competed in the Maccabiahh, including
swimmers Mark Spitz and Jason Lezak, gymnasts Mitch Gaylord and Aly Raisman, golfer Corey Pavin, basketball players Ernie
Grunfeld and Danny Shayes and tennis player Dick
The idea for an international Jewish sports competition
grew out of the various sports clubs that existed
European countries in the
late 1800's. At that time, many young Jews began to stress the importance
of physical strength in the quest to downplay the image
of "ghetto Jew." These
clubs were to be united in the first decade of the
new century, into the Juedische
Turnerschaft, the Union
of Jewish Gymnastics Clubs.
Maccabiahh I (1932) - Nicknamed the “White Horse Olympics” because Tel
Aviv mayor Meir Dizengoff led a parade honoring the games through the
city streets while riding a white horse. The opening ceremony witnessed
the release of 120 carrier pigeons, 10 for each of the 12 tribes
of Israel, whose mission was to send to the world news of the opening
of the first Maccabiahh games. Approximately 390 athletes from 14 countries
participated in the competition.
Maccabiahh II (1935) - Held
despite official opposition by the British
Mandatory government. A German delegation of 134 Jews flouted Nazi
Germany's order not to attend the games and the delegation refused to
fly the German flag during the opening ceremonies. The games became
known as the “Aliyah Olympics” because many of the athletes
chose to remain and settle in Israel. The Bulgarian delegation stayed in Israel and sent home
their sports equipment and musical instruments. A total of 28 countries
were represented by 1,350 athletes.
Maccabiahh III (1950) - Originally scheduled
for 1938, the event was postponed because of the international political
situation and British fears of an upsurge in illegal immigration. The
first games to be held after the Holocaust and the establishment of the
State of Israel was attended by 800 athletes representing 19 countries.
Maccabiahh IV (1953) - This Games initiated
the tradition of bringing from Modi'in - Judah Maccabee's birthplace -
the torch used to light the flame at the opening ceremony. A total of
890 athletes from 12 countries participated.
Maccabiahh V (1957) - Some Eastern European countries
did not send delegations to protest the Sinai
Campaign. Competitors included American weightlifter and Olympic
gold medalist Isaac Berger and Australian national tennis champion Eva
Dulding. Hungarian four-time Olympic gold medalist Agnes Kleti performed
in two exhibitions. The policy of playing the Maccabiahh every four years
Maccabiahh VI (1961) - The International Olympics
Committee endowed the Maccabi World Union with Olympic standing and
declared the Maccabiahh a “Regional Sports Event.” American
Dick Savitt won two gold medals. Exhibitions were performed by two American
Olympic medalists, Rafer Johnson (decathlon) and John Thomas (high jump).
The event had 1,000 competitors from 27 nations.
Maccabiahh VII (1965) - Several well-known athletes
won medals, including swimmer Mark
Spitz (winner of seven gold medals in the Munich
Olympics), swimmer Marilyn Ramenofsky (then USA record-holder and
silver medalist in the Rome Olympics in the 400-meter freestyle) and
international tennis player Tom Okker (Holland).
Maccabiahh VIII (1969) - Wimbledon winner Julie
Heldman participated in the eighth Maccabiahh.
Maccabiahh IX (1973) - Dedicated
to the 11 Israeli Olympians murdered by terrorists during the 1972
Maccabiahh X (1977) - “The Jubilee Maccabiahh”
marked 25 years of Maccabiahh competition. More than 2,700 competitors
from 33 countries participated.
Maccabiahh XI (1981) - The games honored the memory
of Maccabiahh World Union President and International Maccabiahh Games
Committee President Pierre Gildesgame who died in a car accident. Thirty
countries sent 3,450 to play in the games. Dan Shayes, the future Denver
Nugget, played for the American basketball squad.
Maccabiahh XII (1985) - Olympic legend Mark Spitz
opened the games lighting a torch along with three children of Israeli
Olympians murdered at the Munich Olympics. Four thousand sportsman from
40 countries attended the games. The junior Maccabiahh was established.
Maccabiahh XIII (1989) - The opening torch was
carried by former world swimming champion Hanoch Budin, an IDF disabled veteran. The event brought together 4,500 athletes from 45
Maccabiahh XIV (1993) - A total 5,500 athletes
from 57 nations competed.
Maccabiahh XV (1997) - Former Montreal Canadien
coach Jacques Demers led a Canadian hockey squad consisting of numerous
NHL players. The event was marred when a pedestrian bridge collapsed
and four Australian athletes were killed and more than 60 other people
Maccabiahh XVI (2001) - On the verge of cancellation
because of ongoing violence, the 16th Maccabiahh attracted more than
3,000 athletes from 41 Countries to participate in 44 sports. Women’s
basketball returned to the Games and women’s soccer was added.
U.S. Olympic swimming gold medalist and former world record holder,
Lenny Krayzelburg earned a gold and set a new Maccabiahh record in the
100 meter backstroke.
Maccabiahh XVII (2005) - Some
7,000 athletes from 55 countries participated
in the 2005 Maccabiahh Games.
Maccabiahh XVIII (2009) - 9,000 athletes from 54 countries participated.
Maccabiahh XIX (2013) - Participants from 70 countries including 2012 Olympians Aly Raisman, Jason Lezak, Garrett Webber-Gale, Steven Solomon and Alex Shatilov.