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Maccabiah History

In the beginning was "The Idea" conceived by a 15 year old Jewish youngster, Joseph Yekutieli, against the background of the 1912 World Olympics in Stockholm. For the next ten years, he mulled it over until he formulated a detailed plan. After another decade of intensive efforts, endless lobbying and tireless knocking on the doors of rulers, secretaries, government officials, authorities and close friends, the plan, which had appeared to many to be too daring and pretentious, finally took shape and became a reality.

In 1928 Yekutieli presented a proposal to Menachem Ussishkin, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Jewish National Fund, for the first convocation in Eretz Yisrael of Jewish athletes from all over the world, symbolically timed for the 1800 th anniversary of the Bar Kochba rebellion.

At that time the Maccabi Movement was in the process of setting up an internationally recognized body representing all Eretz Yisrael's sports, thereby paving the way for official participation in important international events. It was clear that the proposed Maccabiah could not be rganized without the approval of the international sports associations, which accepted only recognized countries into their ranks. Only in 1928, after Eretz Yisrael Soccer Association was founded and recognized by most of the international bodies, was the way paved for the organization of the first Maccabiah in Eretz Yisrael.

The organizers decided that the Maccabiada, as the Games were then called, would be held for members of the World Maccabi Federation, at designated intervals, patterned along the Olympic Games. The purpose of these worldwide Jewish competitions was to allow the various participating associations an opportunity to test their strength, preparethemselves for international and Olympic competitions and to glorify the sports achievements of Jewish youth. The path towards the Maccabiada, which, at the suggestion of the writer K. Silman, was Hebraized to Maccabiah, abounded with arguments and was strewn with stumbling blocks. Alongside the differences of opinion which emerged in World Maccabi over the conduct and content of the Maccabiah, events in Eretz Yisrael took a grave turn, throwing doubt upon whether the games would ever take place.

On the 9th of Av 5689 (summer of 1929) an anti-Jewish riot broke out at the Western Wall, spreading to all the Jewish communities in Eretz israel with the exception of Tiberias. Hundreds of Jews were murdered. Maccabi members volunteered for the Haganah, which was revealed in all its weakness during the riots. Lord Plumer, the High Commissioner in Eretz Yisrael was replaced by Sir John Chancellor of the British Colonial Service, who rapidly showed himself to be pro-Arab and blatantly hostile to Zionism. The Maccabiah was finally held on the intended date. Sir Arthur Wauchope had replaced Chancellor as High Commissioner in the autumn of 1931, beginning theׂGolden Age׃ of the Jewish community in Eretz Yisrael. Wauchope admired Jewish sports and the achievements of the Zionist movement in Eretz Yisrael and extended his patronage to the Maccabiah, on condition that it hosts Arab and English groups. Two delegations of Jewish motorcycle riders set out from Tel Aviv for a Propaganda Tour (today we use the term Promotional Tour) throughout Europe; the first in 1930 from Tel Aviv to Antwerp, and the second, a year later from Tel Aviv to London. Yekutieli himself participated in the delegation of young cyclists.


On the second tour which began on May 10 and ended on July 16, 1931, the riders covered 9,375 kilometers, from the Sinai desert through Cairo, Alexandria, Salonika, Gorna, Sofia, Belgrad, Novisad, Osijek, Zagreb, Vienna, Linz, Nuremburg, Frankfurt, Metz and Paris to London, Brighton, Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham and Beirut. In all these cities, they announced the Maccabiah which would take place the following spring in Eretz Yisrael. Masses of enthusiastic Maccabi members proclaimed their desire to participate in theׂ Jewish Olympics׃