If you are Jewish and a sports fan then the chances are that you have heard of the Maccabiah Games. Sometimes called the Jewish Olympics, the Maccabiah games are an international sports event held every four years in Israel.
The games were founded in 1932 and since then have flourished. The most recent edition was in the summer of 2017 and they saw over 10,000 athletes taking part, making it the third biggest international sporting event (after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup).
People flock from across the world to take part and compete in forty-five different sports. The games always take part in the year after the Olympics and are split into four divisions, Open, Juniors, Masters and Disabled.
The games are the result of a proposal put forward by Yosef Yekutieli in the 1929 Maccabi World Congress. He had heard about the Stockholm Olympics and wanted to create a version to be held in Israel. When the new British Palestine High Commissioner Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope was appointed, Yekutieli got the go-ahead and the first games were held in 1932. They were an immediate success with around 400 athletes from 18 countries taking part. The second games were held in 1935 but the third did not take place until 1950 due to World War II, the Independence War in Israel and concerns from the British.
Just like at the Olympics, the games open with a huge ceremony. The ceremony is presented in English, Hebrew and Spanish and is held in a stadium in Ramat Gan. It normally starts with a parade of nations and then there are a number of displays including music, singing, dancing and theatre. Recently, famous Jewish singers from across the world have come to take part, such as Grammy Award winner Miri Ben-Ari and USA X-Factor finalist Carly Rose Sonenclar.
As mentioned, there are 45 sports that make up the actual games. These include all the 28 Olympic sports and others such as chess, cricket and netball. In fact, it is far easier for new sports to take part in the Maccabiah Games. All it requires is that at least four delegations bring competitors for the sport. All the events take place over a period of two weeks and then there is a closing ceremony to end things.
Like the opening ceremony, the closing one includes music, dance, and so on, as well as speeches from well-known figures.
While the Maccabiah Games does not attract the same level of attention as the Olympics, there are still a number of Olympic athletes that take part. For instance, the three-time Olympic champion swimmer Anthony Ervin has taken part, as has B. J. Johnson and many more.
Unfortunately, as the games only take place once every four years there is a smaller chance of you being able to witness them on your gap year. However, if you do ever have the chance to go and watch, or better still take part, it is sure to be an unforgettable experience.