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Jewish Olympics Open in Jerusalem

Some 10,000 Jewish athletes converged on Jerusalem this week to participate in the 20th Maccabiah Games, marking the 50thanniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem.

The 20th Maccabiah, known as the Jewish Olympics, is the largest in history with a record number of athletes from 80 countries around the world, representing the third largest sporting event in the world.

The athletes, including some 2,500 Israeli athletes, will participate in Maccabiah events and compete in 40 different sports in four categories – Youth, Open, Master and Paralympics.

Additionally, there will be integrated sports events with the general public, such as the Maccabi-Man and an open-water swimming competition, in which thousands of other athletes will participate.

Some of the elite athletes who are participating in the games include four Olympic gold medalists: American Jewish swimmers Anthony Ervin, Jason Lezak, Lenny Kreizelberg and French Jewish swimmer Fabien Gilot.

Around 20,000 guests from abroad who arrived in Israel for the Maccabiah are expected bring some NIS 350 million to the Tourism Fund

“The Maccabiah has returned to its natural home – Jerusalem, the capital of Israel and the country’s capital of sport,” Jerusalem’s Mayor Nir Barkat added, referring to the games as ”a true testament to the strength of our capital.”

Director General of the Ministry of Culture and Sport, Yossi Sharabi, stated that “there is nothing like a visit to the State of Israel to help understand the importance of Jewish existence here and gain familiarity with life in the State of Israel. One visit by thousands of Jewish athletes from around the world strengthens connections to the state and to the Jewish world more than a thousand speeches and dozens of pictures ever could. This is the tremendous importance of the Maccabiah and its contribution to the great vision behind the Zionist enterprise. ”

Chairman of the Maccabiah, Amir Peled, said that the Maccabiah combines all the values in which he believes – “Zionism, Judaism, brotherhood, bringing people together and sports.”

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