The Ties That Bond

The Maccabiah, the Jewish Olympics, is a reminder, if any were needed, of how − from the NBA to Major League Baseball, from the English Premier League to the tennis courts of Wimbledon and Roland Garros − Jews and Israelis are becoming increasingly prominent and successful in the world of sports.

Since its inception in 1932, the Maccabiah has not only provided Diaspora Jews with an opportunity to visit Israel, to learn about their cultural and religious heritage, and to compete against other Jews from across the globe, it has also been a sort of siren, calling Jews home.

As the Maccabiah takes place for the 18th time, Haaretz celebrates the bond between sport and immigration, competition and cooperation, athleticism and ideology. From the New Jersey rower who would become the Jewish state?s ambassador to his country of birth, to the immigrant from Ethiopia with potential to become a world-class runner − the Maccabiah, like Israel itself, is a breeding ground for a new generation of Zionists.

?Faster, higher, stronger? may be an apt motto for the Olympics, but the Maccabiah Games are not just about winning. If, as a result of participating in the Games, the athletes who come here from overseas − often at great personal expense − are exposed to Zionist values, and the Israelis who participate encounter Jews from the four corners of the world, then that in itself is a great achievement. And if no world records are broken, it really doesn?t matter.