The idea that Jews and sports don’t mix is a tradition stemming from Greek and Roman times when sports were performed in the nude and associated with idol worship. Jewish texts from post-biblical periods are highly critical of sporting activities. The Book of Maccabees describes members of Greek gymnasiums as “the wicked Jewish Hellenizers” and the Talmud condemns sports, especially the cruelty of gladiator combat.
In modern times, the Olympic Games evoke complicated memories for Jews and Israel. In 1936, Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship camouflaged its racist, militaristic character while hosting the Berlin Olympics. And in one of the greatest tragedies ever to befall an international sporting competition, Palestinian terrorists killed 11 members of the Israeli delegation at the Munich Olympics in 1972.
As some 10,000 Jewish athletes from 80 countries ascended to Jerusalem to participate in the 20th Maccabiah Games, the nation was abustle with anticipation. Held every four years since 1932, the multi-sport Maccabiah competition is now the third largest sporting event in the...
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