M21 TEAM AUSTRALIA – A GREAT RESULT!
A large delegation of athletes competed across 20 sports at the 21st Maccabiah Games in Israel this July. The team was the largest traveling sports team in Australia, bigger than the Olympic or Commonwealth games teams
Our team performed exceptionally well achieving the largest medal haul ever including – 24 Gold, 33 Silver & 47 Bronze for a total of 104 medals.
We had some outstanding individual and team results, with people achieving personal bests in both the pool & on the athletic track. The joy our athletes exuded whilst competing to the best of their ability was infectious and spurred on others. Whichever way it is counted, it is an outstanding result achieved by our Australian team.
The next Maccabiah is only 3 years away, & we are already starting our planning cycle to ensure that the next one is as successful
Maccabi Team Australia – One Team – One Dream
MACCABI LIFE MACCABIAH VIP MISSION
For the first time in Australian Maccabi history a bold and ambitious program was developed for people interested in a VIP experience under the Maccabi Life banner. The program was developed to provide participants with a unique experience intertwining of the Maccabiah sports events with touring highlights that were pitched as a money can’t buy experience.
It included the best of Israel touring, attendance at key events such as the opening ceremony and opportunities to mingle with politicians and sporting legends and also join the athletes at the team party and at the Bridge Ceremony both memorable experiences.
Interwoven into the schedule were key note speakers such as Lior from Fauda, Gonen Ben Yitzhak who was the shin bet handler of the Green Prince. There were also geopolitical lectures from Bentzl Gruber and a defence force strategist Colonel Kobi Marom who presented a interesting but challenging perspective of Israel military and strategic threats
Sport was also a key focus for the Mission – the participants were treated to insights from key note speakers such as Arik Zeevi – Olympian medalist in Judo and Noam Gershony – Paralympic gold medalist in a tennis.
No Jewish event in complete without food – a shuk and cook experience set the tone for the many dinners that were included in the program – must try restaurants such the Whiskey Bar, Yafo – a Haim Cohen restaurant, Messa and Onza were outstanding and not only provided insight to great Israeli cuisine but also gave the team an opportunity to build relationships.
After 21 days of schlepping across the country the Mission culminated with attendance at the closing ceremony and farewells were said, pins swapped and memories banked.
An unforgettable and avoidable tragedy struck the Jewish community on the 14th July 1997 when a pedestrian bridge leading into Tel Aviv’s Ramat Gan Stadium collapsed with almost 100 members of the Australian Maccabiah team on it.
What should have been a joyous occasion as the team marched towards the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games turned rapidly into panic and disaster.
Few will forget the awful images of people plunging into the Yarkon River and scrambling into, or being pulled out of, the murky water and onto the mangled wreckage of the bridge. Tragically, Greg Small, 37, Yetty Bennett, 50, Elizabeth Sawicki, 47, and Warren Zines, 56, lost their lives, while dozens more athletes and officials were injured.
A number of those hospitalized battled to fight off infections caused by a fungus found in the Yarkon’s toxic water.
Despite the overwhelming grief and shock, the team decided to remain in Israel and compete in honor of their fallen teammates, following an impassioned plea by then-Israeli president Ezer Weizman.
Tom Goldman, then president of Maccabi Australia, said at the time, “We are proud and moved by the unbelievable display of strength, courage and pride of our team members to play on and compete at this Maccabiah. We are also indebted to the large number of Australian team members who risked their lives to save the lives of others in this tragedy.”
The Games paused for a 24-hour mourning period before they were resumed and, despite the trauma, Australia went on to win a record number (at the time) of 60 medals.
This year, 25 years after the tragic and unnecessary loss of lives, Australia sent a team of 560 to the 21st Maccabiah, and the entire contingent attended a memorial service to pay tribute to the four victims and their families. Wearing shirts marked 1997 in tribute, they quietly marched across the Yarkon River and laid wreaths next to a memorial stone.
Jeff Sher President of Maccabi Australia in a speech delivered at the ceremony asked the team to try and imagine the tragedy of what unfolded when the bridge that would have given the athletes the right of passage to the time of their lives collapsed. He said “Dreams cut short and lives lost will be the enduring memory of that Maccabiah and so we gather here to remember all of those who were impacted, injured, scarred and most importantly to pay our respects and condolences to the families of Greg Small, Elizabeth Sawicki, Warren Zines and Yetty Bennett – each of whom lost their lives whilst wearing the Maccabi uniform. Australia’s pain will never be diminished, our memories will always prevail and to the families of those who lost loved ones we will always honour and remember Greg, Warren, Yetty and Elizabeth “
To watch the full ceremony from the 2022 Games – click on the button below
The Maccabiah Games is the primary focus the MWU, and is seen as an important vehicle to promote Jewish identity and traditions through cultural, social, and sporting activities provided at the games. The Games are one of the World’s largest sports events, contending with the World University Games for 3rd spot after the Olympics and Asian Games.
The concept of the Maccabiah Games was the brainchild of 15-year old Russian-born Yosef Yekutieli. The Eretz Yisroel teenager so energized by news of the 1912 Olympic Games that he conceived the fanciful notion of a worldwide Olympics for Jewish athletes in Palestine. With little encouragement, and not a small amount of ridicule, Yekutieli spent the next ten years developing details of his unique idea.
In 1928, Yekutieli presented his far-fetched proposal to the Jewish National Fund, with the notion that the Maccabiah Games be organized to commemorate the 1800th anniversary of the Bar Kochba Rebellion (Jewish revolt against the Romans). Coincidentally, the Maccabi organization was, at the same time, formulating ideas to provide a means of participation by athletes living in the British Mandate of Palestine in important international sporting events; one that would also act as a form of international recognition of Palestine as the Jewish National Home.
The original Maccabiah was held March 28 to April 6, 1932. Its overwhelming success guaranteed its permanent future. Originally conceived as a quadrennial event, Maccabiah II was moved up a year to 1935 because of the rising tide of Nazism in Europe. The rumblings of World War II forced postponement of the third Maccabiah. The delay was 15 years. The Games were reborn in 1950 in the new State of Israel, and Maccabiah #4 was held in 1953. Thereafter, the Maccabiah established its current quadrennial formula, held the year following the Summer Olympic Games.
The Games today are organized by an International Maccabiah Committee and are sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee and World Federation of Sports. The Maccabiah Games, ranking among the five largest sports gatherings in the world (in number of participants), are considered Regional Games by the International Olympic Committee.
For each participant, the Maccabiah Games are “two weeks to experience and a lifetime to remember.” For many, the Maccabiah is the athlete’s most significant connection to the State of Israel and for some, Judaism itself. For all athletes, connection with Jewish contemporaries from the far reaches of the world, in the land of Jewish roots, inspires an awakening of heritage.