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Israel's bowlers are keenly anticipating the forthcoming Maccabiah, where they will be joined by players from South Africa, Australia, England and Canada. The Israeli squads, both men and women, will be defending the overall titles they won in the previous two Maccabiahs.

Lawn bowling made its debut in the fourth Maccabiah in 1953; the Israelis were joined then only by South Africa and Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia).

The latter visitors were induced by ex-South African Max Spitz, who had battled and finally succeeded in introducing the game to Israel at its first bowling green at Ramat Gan.

The contest remained a triangular event during the 1960s and '70s; not until the '80s did England, Australia, the United States and Canada make an appearance.

By 1961 the Israelis had managed to earn golds in individual disciplines, but not until 1981 did Israel's men's team win the gold for the overall Max Spitz Trophy, with the women following suit in 1985.

Initially Israel and South Africa competed for overall honors, but in the 1997 games the Australian women's bowlers won a first-ever gold. To boot, their men's side won the overall Max Spitz Trophy.

All the more outstanding was that the Australians were playing in the shadow of the Yarkon bridge disaster, continuing the games with depleted teams.

Four of Australia's male bowlers and one woman were injured and withdrew. Warren Zines eventually succumbed to his injuries; he has been remembered ever since with a tournament and trophy in his name.

Rules of the competition allow each country to enter one or two teams of five players who split up into playing singles, pairs, triples and fours. The total points accumulated in the four disciplines determine the overall winners of the Max Spitz Trophy.

For the men one team comprises Yair Bekier, Colin Silberstein, Alan Saitowitz, Haviv Takin and David Kontenta. The first four mentioned represented Israel in the recent Atlantic competition, but Kontenta is replacing the unavailable Boaz Marcus. The second five-up side comprises, Zvika Hadar, Rami Oron, Denis Phillips, Raymond Sher and Dani Slodovnik.

The women's team is made up of Tzila Gavish, Irit Grencel, Tami Kamzel, Edna Zomberg and Dalia Schneider; as with the men, the first four named are from the Atlantic team, with Schneider replacing Ruthie Gilor, the Atlantic singles gold medalist, who is also unavailable.

The second five-up side is Noga Bachrach, Yael Bar-Ner, Deni Galland, Beverley Polatinsky and Suzanna Wagensberg.

Ramat Gan's Tzila Gavish will be playing in her sixth straight Maccabiah since 1989, while among the men Colin Silberstein and Raymond Sher are in their fourth tournament since 1997.

But a record difficult to match in any sport is that of Ramat Gan's Rina Lebel, who was on Israel's Maccabiah team nine straight times between 1957 and 1989, ending up as team manager in 1993.

Among the visitors, Australia's Gary Benveniste and England's Bernard Davidson will be in their fifth Maccabiah, while Australia's Isaac Glick and England's David Lawrence will be in their fourth.

But conspicuous by its absence is the United States, which played in the previous Maccabiah but did not manage to find five players this year.

The tournament starts off at Ramat Gan on the 12th., with the pairs and triples, to be followed with the singles and fours from the 17th to the 22nd.