The Fifth Maccabiah: 5717

No doubt, the drop in the number of athletes participating in the Fifth Maccabiah was due, in part, to the Sinai Campaign the previous year.  Fewer states sent delegates this time -- twenty instead of the previous twenty two -- although Mexico sent a delegation for the first time.  Of the 980 athletes who competed in 19 events, 250 were from Israel.

Acting upon the suggestion of Aron Netanel, Chairman of Maccabi World Union who died of a heart attack approximately a month and a half before the Opening Ceremony, Maccabi decided to erect a permanent village for the athletes, Kfar Maccabiah near Ramat Gan, whose first building was officially dedicated at this Maccabiah.

In preparation for the opening day, the Maccabiah Stadium was completely renovated.  A new spectator section was constructed, bringing to 7,000 the number who could now be seated at the games.  Racing tracks were renewed and installed, dressing rooms redecorated and playing fields gotten into shape.  The grounds were groomed for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and the volleyball competitions.  Once again, Gan Avraham was prepared for the basketball games and seats were added at Galei Gal pool (in Haifa) for the swim meets.

At the Opening Ceremony 2,600 youngsters from all over Israel -- many of them not Maccabi Tzair members -- took part in the gymnastics exhibition.  Since not all of them could afford to buy sports shoes (the austerity years), they performed barefooted.  These enterprising youngsters had fashioned temporary ׂshoes׃ from rags and cardboard for the walk from their camp to the stadium grounds.  The veterans, led by the oldest Shomer Avraham Shapira, and the oldest gym teacher, Zvi Nishri, marched at the head of the Israeli delegation.

Track and field events, swimming, tennis and basketball games aroused the most interest and drew large crowds.  A surprising number of participants registered for wrestling, weightlifting and table tennis. The South African sprinter, Harold Brumberg set records in the 100 and 200 meter dashes and won the Eliahu Savislotsky Medal for Outstanding Athlete.  

Yitzhak Berger, Olympic medal winner in weightlifting, set a new world record at the Maccabiah.  Other outstanding competitors were Grossfeld, U.S. champion gymnast (7 Gold Medals) and South African and Australian tennis champions Abba Segal and Ava Dolzig.  Israeli David Kushnir won the broad jump once again and Deborah Turner from England the 100 meter dash.  Agnes Kelti, winner of 5 Olympic Gold Medals, gave two spectacular gymnastic performances after the Games, immediately adding her name to the list of over 71,000 Jews mainly from Poland, Hungary and Egypt who immigrated to Israel that year.