Constituting the world's third largest sports event, the 18th Maccabiah, to be held in July 2009, will be the largest ever, displaying the positive vibrancy of Jewish and Israeli Sports and the global activities of Maccabi World Union, the Games' organizational parent. Each successive Maccabiah attracts more athletes, and as all its predecessors have done, Maccabiah Chai (in Hebrew numerology, 18 means "Life!") forges an important new link in Zionist history.
Since world leaders of Maccabi decided 80 years ago at a Congress in Czechoslovakia to establish the Maccabiah, the Games have been staged seventeen times, twice in Tel Aviv during the British Mandate and fifteen times in the independent Jewish State. The emphasis and range of sports has evolved and changed over the 77 years since the 1st Maccabiah in 1932, but the strong basic theme of Zionist values that brings so many thousands of young Jewish athletes and visitors to Israel remains constant.
Early Maccabiot established Israel's connection with the Olympic Movement, and the Maccabiah is recognized as one of the world's most important Regional Games events. The 1930's Maccabiot resulted in hundreds of athletes from numerous countries making Aliyah, enriching the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel in numerous fields – education, research, arts, culture and sports. After 1948, the continued Aliyah of top athletes generated by Maccabiot and appearances by elite sportspeople like the celebrated Mark Spitz – the All-time Great of Jewish Sports – contributed greatly to the nation's sporting culture. Many of the current leading Jewish athletes, including Beijing 2008 Olympics gold medalists, will participate in Maccabiah 2009, as a mark of their respect for the connection the Games establish with Judaism and Israel.
The spectacular Opening Ceremony on Monday, July 13, 2009 will introduce several new innovations into the Maccabiah tradition: all 7500 athletes will parade into Ramat Gan National Stadium – the country's largest – and all will remain on the turf arena as active participants not only in the ceremonial phase, but also during the artistic show. The entire event will be televised live not only in Israel, but also in North America, Europe and Africa, and live-webcast worldwide via the Internet. The Opening Ceremony marks the official start of 10 days of intense competion in 35 different types of sport and many disciplines at more than 75 venues throughout Israel.
The arrival of thousands of athletes, officials and visitors from all over the globe, along with mass open-entry "Popular Maccabiah" cycling and beach events, means that the Maccabiah is not only a sports festival but also a huge event for Israel's tourism industry (involving hotels, guest houses, restaurants, shuttle and tour buses) and for the thousands of volunteers who are looking forward to meeting Jews from abroad and to helping to organize this complex event which is rich in sports, educational and religious content (including mass Bat/Bar Mitzvahs at the Western Wall). The 18th Maccabiah is the highlight of four years of preparation by Maccabi World Union's Organizing Committee and one of the national events that will be remembered long after the Closing Ceremony.
18th Maccabiah Organizing Committee