The Eighth Maccabiah: 5729
The Eighth Maccabiah was the first held after Jerusalem had been unified. The Israeli victory in June 1967 had given rise to waves of admiration in the Diaspora and many Jewish youngsters were drawn to Eretz Israel. 1,450 athletes from 27 countries participated in the Games, competing in 22 events. Neither the blood which was continually spilt on the borders and in the outlying communities -- even in the Golan Heights -- the hot pursuits in the Jordan Valley nor the War of Attrition at the Suez Canal deterred the athletes from coming to compete. The Opening Ceremony, which paid tribute to immigration and absorption, was more than a concrete expression of the slogan, ׂThe show must go on׃ As before, no representatives arrived from behind the Iron Curtain, Arab lands and Iran. On the other hand, athletes from Germany and Greece came, once again, to participate under their national flag.
This Maccabiah was hardly the modest sports event one would expect from a small nation with one finger on the trigger. The athletes underwent a tremendous emotional experience when, for the first time, they were permitted to approach the Western Wall in the Old City of reunified Jerusalem. After the pilgrimage to the Wall, they participated in an impressive ceremony on Mt. Scopus, attended by Minister of Absorption, Yigal Allon (Z׃L). At a later date, the Maccabiah organizers decided to hold the Closing Ceremony in Jerusalem on a regular basis. For the first time, the torch was relayed from the actual graves of the Maccabees (until 1967, they were forbidden to begin the relay so close to the Jordanian border). Joseph Yekutieli was given the honor of lighting the torch. Outstanding basketball player, Amnon Avidan, carried the torch during the Opening Ceremony.
The Eighth Maccabiah was well covered by the world media -- press, radio and television. The Color Guard of the Maccabiah was composed of seven athletes from states which could not send delegations for political reasons. That month mankind won one of its great victories when Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin landed on the moon.
Swimmer Mark Spitz once again proved worthy of his title winning 3 Gold Medals in individual and 3 Gold medals in team races. (His future was, indeed, promising. He was destined to capture 7 Gold Medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics.) Spitz's younger sister, Nancy, kept up the family tradition by winning several gold and one silver medal. Israeli sprinter, Esther Shachamorov, overshadowed all her opponents by winning 3 Gold Medals in track events. Other outstanding athletes were: American sprinter Harold Rothman, Canadian sprinter Avital Hoffman, world champion backstroke swimmer Karen Myor, shot putter Steve Marcus, Wimbledon champion tennis player Julie Haldman. Outstanding basketball player, Tal Brody had set an example to all Jewish athletes in the Diaspora by immigrating to Israel immediately after his U.S. Army service, contributing to the most impressive victory of the Israeli all-star team against the Americans (74:70).
The overall budget of the Eighth Maccabiah was two million pounds. The Ministry of Education assisted the Organizing Committee in raising the necessary funds from the Ministry of the Treasury, Ministry of Absorption and the Jewish Agency, among others, and subsidized the Israeli all-star team. Sports foundations assumed the burden for approximately one half the budget.
For the first time, the organizers conducted an objective evaluation of the athletic competence of the contestants and the level of the Games. The findings indicated that the Eight Maccabiah took place during a period of deterioration in the performance level of Jewish athletes throughout the world, strongly indicating the lack of Jewish candidates from the West who could qualify for international competitions (Jewish athletes from communist countries were forbidden by their governments to compete in the Maccabiot). The findings also indicated that Israel did not invest enough in improving the performance level of members of the Israeli delegation. For example, since the Israeli all-star soccer team was playing in Cyprus at the same time, the official Israeli all-star team at the Maccabiah was, in fact, the all star youth team.
The large number of Israeli athletes participating in the Maccabiah -- approximately one quarter of the total -- was referred to in the report as ׂa quantitative answer to an unacceptably low qualitative level.
- Swimmer Mark Spitz once again proved worthy of his title winning 3 Gold Medals in individual and 3 Gold medals in team races. (His future was, indeed promising. He was destined to capture 7 Gold Medals at the 1972 Munich Olympics.)
- Spitz’s younger sister, Nancy, also racked up medals at the pool and won several gold and one silver medal.
- Israeli sprinter, Esther Shachamorov, overshadowed all her opponents by winning 3 Gold Medals in track events
- American sprinter Harold Rothman
- Canadian sprinter Avital Hoffman
- World champion backstroke swimmer Karen Myor
- Shot putter Steve Marcus
- Wimbledon champion tennis player Julie Haldman
Joining the Party: Countries who participated and haven’t competed in the previous Maccabia