Bintel Blog

Maccabiah Update: A Softball Miracle and Misplaced Nostalgia

By Nathan Jeffay

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Congratulations Team USA! The American delegation to the Maccabiah is delivering the goods.

Yesterday, American pole-vaulter Jillian Schwartz set a new Maccabiah record, reaching 4.24 metres. She broke the record set just a few minutes previously by Israeli national champion Morin Azizi. Obviously, Schwartz won a gold medal in the process.

There was another gold medal for America yesterday thanks to Brown University student Samantha Adelberg. She ran the 800m race in 2:13.65.

The U.S. basketball, softball and baseball teams are all undefeated, and the first US fustal team to enter (fustal is a variant of soccer played indoors) won its first game, which it played against Estonia.

So American sportsmen and women are doing their country proud, but coaches beware: Israel is out to poach them. As the media here has reported, Israel is offering cash incentives of more than $3,000 for members of foreign teams to move to Israel.

If you read a past Bintel Blog on the Maccabiah, you will know that organizers were left red-faced after failing to get a licenses needed to stage softball games. They were canceled by police as a result. Given the Israeli passion for bureaucracy which means that most licences take an age to arrive it’s a miracle, but organizers managed to secure the necessary license yesterday, and the softball is back on.

Another topic discussed in this previous Bintel Blog is the suggestion by some that the Maccabiah is not really a serious sporting tournament anymore, and is more of a social event. We put this claim to Ron Carner, head of the U.S. delegation. Here’s what he had to say: “It’s a very high-level competition, and it’s a social and Zionist event. One doesn’t detract from the other. The number one part of the program is the sport, and everything else flows from that.”

After reading this piece in Haaretz about what the Maccabiah used to be like, one wonders whether those claiming the competition has gone downhill are indulging in a bit of misplaced nostalgia. At least nowadays medalists actually get their medals.


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