The Nineteenth Maccabiah: 5773

There was a prophetic quality in the colorful Maccabiah 2013 logo: An athlete running under a halo of Stars of David to the Games in Israel. Spectators in Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium were treated to a sensational Athletes Parade. Around 9000 athletes – so many that nearly half the Israeli Athletes went directly to their seats – in Delegations from a record-shattering 78 countries flew their national flags. It was like an atlas of global Jewish geography, created through the special 'Lost Communities' Project. Numerous countries made their first-ever Maccabiah appearance, bringing the crowd to its feet in thunderous applause, amazed to see athletes and flags of Albania, Bolivia, Cuba, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, and the lone tennis player from Ulan Bator, Mongolia.

One of the best events in an outstanding program that featured no less than 40 types of sport: an open-entry nighttime Half-Marathon with over 1500 runners on a loop course from Kfar Maccabiah through the streets of Ramat Gan.  Handball, Archery and Shooting reappeared on the program after very long absences. The 'Big 5' sports – Basketball, Golf, Football, Swimming and Tennis – and Finals matches again attracted much spectator and media interest. The star athlete of the Games (and its poster girl, and flame lighter) was USA Gymnast Aly Raisman, the London 2012 Olympics double gold medalist who reprised her hallmark 'Hava Nagila' floor exercise routine to the delight of Gala attendees.

Of many successful organizational innovations, the most important was staging virtually the entire Junior Maccabiah program at the sprawling Wingate Institute. All Athletes came there every morning and enjoyed every aspect of their schedules – training, competition, cultural, educational, meals, tours, everything – through the day and into the evenings. They were busy all day, transiting back only at night to their hotels.  By contracting some of Israel's largest establishments so that they were filled to capacity with Maccabiah participants, Maccabiah 2013 used far fewer hotels as Athletes Villages than in previous Maccabiot.

The spirit of the Maccabi Movement was seen in all aspects. One of the best sports examples: as expected, an Israel squad anchored by Euro 2013 Bronze medalist Donald Sandford and the USA's crack collegiate runners vied for Gold and Silver in the 4X100m Mens Open relay, but who might have imagined that running on guts alone, a cobbled-together 'Mixed' team from various Latin American 'Lost Communities' runners would snatch the Bronze from a squad that featured a 2012 London Olympics sprint finalist?  After the Closing Ceremony on July 30, thousands of happy athletes returned to their families filled with enthusiasm for Israel and modern Jewish life. Around 200 – including 17 of 51 Cubans – made Aliyah immediately.