By Berel Wein
This past week saw the opening of the Maccabiah Games here in Jerusalem. Flamboyantly conceived by their originators as the "Jewish Olympics," the Games, like the Jewish people and the State of Israel, have had their ups and downs.
The tragic collapse of the bridge over the Yarkon River killed four members of the Australian delegation last time the games were held. Then the organizers of the Maccabiah Games, apparently following the lead of the fair and wise men who administered the 1972 Olympics in Munich where 11 Israeli athletes were brutally murdered by the PLO (remember that group; what are they busy at now?), opted to let the Olympic Games continue anyway.
Sensitivities and human lives aside, the Olympic/Maccabiah spirit must always triumph. After all, the play, the games must go on. But, without seeming to be too much of a contrarian, I would pose the question: why did they have to go on then, or go on now?
This year's Maccabiah Games came to be seen somehow as a test of Jewish solidarity with the State of Israel in our current hour of confrontation with the same leadership of the PLO that killed our 11 athletes almost 30 years ago. As such, it has turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. Only about half of the athletes expected actually turned up, and entire Jewish communities absented themselves from participation in this year's contests.
This is a further sad indication of the erosion of support for the State of Israel in the Jewish world, especially in the more assimilated sections of Jewish society where most of the potential Jewish athletes and Maccabiah committee members seem to come from. In fact, there was strong debate in Israel itself as to whether the Maccabiah Games should have been postponed this year. After all, we are currently engaged in a mini-war that sees Jewish and Arab blood spilled daily, and maybe now is not a time for fun and games.
But the games go on, even if the turnout is poor.
Perhaps not having the Maccabiah Games this time around would have sent a stronger message to our Jewish brethren overseas as to the true nature of our situation and struggle here. It would have said, in a dramatic fashion, "rally round us now, speak up for Zion and Jerusalem!" Perhaps holding the games conveys a message of false bravado that further weakens true Jewish solidarity. Perhaps. I don't really know for certain my own mind in this matter, but my doubts gnaw at me.
The olympic Games for 2008 were awarded to China. The brutal and authoritarian regime that governs that vast country organized "spontaneous" demonstrations of delirious public joy at the news of its choice to be the Olympic host. There naturally were those innocents among us who protested the choice of China due to its dismal record regarding the freedom and human rights of its citizens and its aggressions against its neighbors. (Funny, why isn't Tibet considered "occupied territory"?)
Why should the world continue to reward evil?
But we have a strong precedent for this type of choice for an Olympic site. Hitler used the 1936 Olympics as a great propaganda exercise in his drive to create his terrible "New Order." So as not to offend German sensibilities, Jewish athletes were purposely left home, or somehow did not compete in those games. Accommodating Hitler and his sensitivities with the pious hope that the tiger could be tamed by making nice to him only encouraged the bloodbath that Hitler brought on only three years later.
But the games must go on!
Sport is big business, national pride and public relations. It has come to dominate many aspects of our life. As did the Romans with their "bread and circuses," so, too, do modern governments use sports events as a safety valve to deflect public attention from much more serious social and national problems. Questions of morality and national priorities are all sublimated to almighty sports.
A lot of public, government, corporate and private money is being spent on the current Maccabiah Games. How wise an investment of our meager capital this is at the current moment is a matter of debate. In any event, I hope the games pass peaceably and in good spirit and sportsmanship. But thought should be given to the heretical notion that the games need not always necessarily go on.
|Well spoken. All I could think of when I heard that China had been awarded the 2008 games was Hitler's Germany and the lengths the world went to in
accommodating him. I was born after the war and all my life I've heard how we'd never again be fooled by tyrants. It would seem that nothing has changed. |
- D. A. -0/7-/2001
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|Interesting you mention Tibet as if it is unheard of.Down here(in N.Z.)its on bumper stickers and a photo exhibition was stopped because the crowd shots of the Tibeten capital were deemed inacurrate.They appeared to portray happiness between Chinese and Tibetens.
I pass this little bit of info on to you mostly for your own interest;but down here he who shouts loudest gets heard. |
- I. F. -0/7-/2001
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|I feel that the games must go on. The games has an affect on the communities involved as well as have a profound affect on the athletes. LAst year the Games in the USa were hosted by Staten Island, NY and it was great seeing how the athletes from all around the country and world get along. If sinas chinum brought about the destruction of the beis hamikdash, then any event where Jews can get together, even if just for a sporting event, in my eyes is a positive thing. |
- j. a. -0/7-/2001
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|I respect rabbi Wein's insights, but his obvious distaste for the whole idea of the Maccabiah games, a valid opinion in itself, colors his appraisal of this year's Games. It was not meant as just a symbol of support from the Jewish communties worldwide, but specifically, as a sign that, against all odds and in spite of the daily problems, the ctizens of Israel continue living, prospering and fighting for their right to live in peace in Israel. There can be no more damaging signal to the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people than to cancel these Games.it would have shown the Palestinians terrorists that violence and threats can disrupt the most prestigious events and the daily life of the Israelis. From canceling the Games, it is only a small step to barring ,for example, access to the Kotel because of possible threats, or postponing any kind of festivities ,religious or secular,in public. You cansee where I am going with this. To bow to the terrorist blackmail for ANY event in Israel is sending a defeatist and frightened sign.You do NOT appease a blackmailer, you fight him. Moshe Dick |
- m. d. -0/7-/2001
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|To cancel the games would be one more win for the PLO and their terrorist allies. The objective of their terrorism is to isolate Israel from not only the gentile world but from the Jewish community that lives outside Israel, particularly the Jewish community in the United States. Frankly, I think that they are winning that objective. |
- T. O. -0/7-/2001
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