Question: What is the Maccabiah?
Answer: The Maccabiah Games, aka the "Jewish Olympics," are traditionally held in Israel every four years and attract thousands of the best Jewish athletes from around the world. The event is named for the Jewish warrior Judah Maccabee, who fought against the ancient Greeks.
In the beginning
Yosef Yekutieli was just 15 years old when he heard news of the 1912 Olympic Games held in Stockholm and conceived the idea of a worldwide Olympics for Jewish athletes in the Land of Israel. For 10 years Yosef thought about ways to make his idea a reality.
Then in 1928, Yekutieli presented his proposal to the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Jewish National Fund, Menachem Ussishkin. Yekutieli also proposed that the First Maccabiah should take place in time for the 1800th anniversary of the Bar Kochba Rebellion.
At the time, there was interest in establishing an umbrella body to represent all sports in Eretz Israel. This organization would enable people living in the new British Mandate of Palestine to compete in international sports events, thereby promoting international recognition of Palestine as the Jewish National Home.
Let the Games begin!
The first Maccabiah Games took place in 1932. In addition to their Zionistic goal, the Games aimed to assist Jewish athletes who were banned from participation in International events because of their religion.
In time the Maccabiah became more than a way to promote recognition of Israel and an opportunity for Jewish athletes to compete. It became an effective way to strengthen ties between Jews worldwide and encourage Jewish solidarity. After the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the Maccabiah further developed into a promotion of Diaspora-Israel ties and of aliyah.