Jerusalem Celebrates Sports and More

The Maccabiah 2022 started with lights, sounds, and fireworks on July 14th.

On Sunday, July 24th the final medal events are being held at the YMCA and in the Malha stadiums. It’s been another Jerusalem Celebrates Sports week.

Over 30,000 people participated in the opening Maccabiah 2022 ceremony held in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, Israel, on the summer day of July 14th, as Jerusalem cooled in the evening as the sunset.

I remembered that 5 years ago, the Maccabiah joined Jerusalem for a Night Run. That 2017 event began at Jerusalem’s Takhana Rishona, First Station.

This time the Jerusalem Night Run started and ended in Gan Sacher, Sacher Park with three distance routes – half marathon, 10 K, and 5 K.

Not quite the Jerusalem International Marathon, as the finish line for all the runners was in the park. The helium-filled finish was installed shortly before the race times.

The last meters to the finish line were plain grass, not the ramp which has been a feature for the full marathon after the first muddy year in 2011.

Arriving early before dark, I was able to meet the head of the US track team

and a junior runner from Hong Kong.

The starting line was up in time for the race starts – but just barely. There were drums and music as the runners took their positions.

One Ukrainian flag was displayed at the start of the half marathon,

and a proposal marked and delayed the start of the second race.

I went early as it is hard to get good photos of Night Run participants.

It is much easier when runners pose before the start.

And much more fun when you see people you know running again.

The night air cooled the park, which was filled with colors and lights.

Oh yes, Jerusalem streets were blocked again and closed for the Night Run.

As I walked home, both international and local runners kept coming,

seemingly enjoying racing thru the Jerusalem streets to the finish line.

The Night Run was not the only event the Jerusalem public could observe. For the Maccabiah 2022, an ice hockey rink was constructed in the Pais Arena. After Shabbat, the stadium was opened for the final game, Canada vs. the US.

Oh, how different from the 2013 Maccabiah games, also held in Israel,

when we had to travel all the way to the ice rink in Metula, in the far north.

Not exactly the same scale by any measure!

The closing ceremony of the 21st Maccabiah will take place July 25th at the Live Park in Rishon LeTzion. 

It will be interesting to see the changes the next time the international Jewish athletes from World Maccabiah return to the Jerusalem streets.

However, not just sports filled the Jerusalem streets this past week.

The Sultan’s Pool, across from the walls of the Old City was full of thousands

of excited baby boomers for the Paul Anka concert on Wednesday night,

and on Thursday night there were 5,000 on hand for the opening of the 39th Jerusalem Film Festival, which goes until the end of July and includes more than 200 films from more than 50 countries and outdoor shows.

Rehearsals for Theater in Motion – Shakespeare in Bloomfield Park in August, went on in spite of the US Presidential visit, street closings, and runners on the roads.

Jerusalem Train Theater, original train under renovation

And preparations are well underway at the new Train Theater to host the 31st International Jerusalem Puppet Festival in August.

Jerusalem new Train Theater near Liberty Bell Park

From that old train car, the new state-of-the-art facility at Liberty Bell Park will host international puppeteers and a long list of family events.

Original Train Theater in Jerusalem

Yes, the Train Theater, the sports and culture, and the facilities have come a long way – and much more.

View of Har Habayit from the Rova

Isn’t it time you came to see them yourself?

Jerusalem Shut Down for Biden and Lights Up for Maccabiah

The international press arrived by the hundreds to cover the visit of the President of the United States to Jerusalem.

While the rest of the world watched online broadcasts, so did residents of Jerusalem, many of whom were confined to their homes with security closings of the Jerusalem streets.

I knew the street with Beit Hanasi, the Israeli President’s Residence would be closed off, and even views would be blocked, so I went early to get you a view of a few of the thousands of US and Israeli flags put up for the visit.

People were so wary, or weary, of closings that at this corner cars backed up and turned around. Only it was a just transport vehicle stopped for a red light.

At the King David Hotel, security measures to block access were readied in advance for the President’s arrival, and these streets were often shut to pedestrians as well as cars.

The night before the Presidential arrival of Joe Biden, the flags displayed over the King David Hotel blew in the wind.

In Bloomfield Park behind the hotel, a lone cat strolled,

the area would be totally closed off the next day.

I had ventured out early to get photos of the presidential visit to share on my way to the Touro Restaurant for a foreign media reception.

US Ambassador to Israel Tom Nides attended with a small entourage.

He seemed to enjoy posing for photos on the night before the “big event.”

A media center was set up for foreign journalists. Very few would be allowed anywhere near the actual scene. I decided to stay home and watch on my computer and capture screenshot images.

But I was out enough to see a fraction of the security arriving to guard every corner and rooftop along the Presidential mega motorcade route which would be closed before, during, and after the times Biden was to be on the Jerusalem streets.

By now you should understand why Jerusalem residents are not thrilled to have these Presidential visits?

Trump came for Jerusalem Day and shut things down.

I remember the preparations for Obama and both Bush visits, which were not fun times for locals either–when even walking was not allowed.

But there was more action on the Jerusalem streets!

Long-planned and Covid-postponed, the 21st Maccabiah opening event was held at Teddy Stadium in the Malha neighborhood of Jerusalem, Israel.

Over 30,000 people were scheduled to attend the mega event, arriving from around the world. Eighty countries were said to be represented.

And then, in addition to the usual Israeli President and Prime Minister making a showing, US President Joe Biden came too, and waved his USA Maccabiah hat to the crowd and TV audience.

There were entertainers for the cameras and a drone circling above, as 10,000 Maccabiah participants entered the stadium.

Some of the people in the stands had come hours before.

Minister of Culture and Sport Chili Tropper was the only one not behind the protective shield, as the Herzogs and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion and wife along with Defense Minister Benny Gantz waved.

Gantz stood alone for a few minutes,

and then came down and walked through the admiring crowd as if it was his campaign rally for Prime Minister. Remember elections are set for the beginning of November, the fifth Israeli elections in three years.

At this Maccabiah 2022 opening, there were jokes about who could tell US Secret Service from the Israeli security inside and outside the stadium.

And police and more police watching the crowd from above.

That is all well known, I want to share what you might not have seen.

In the crowd of 30,000, I met two women from the US. When you arrive three hours before an event, it is time to walk around and make new friends.

The smiles of those marching in the Maccabiah opening teams, and in all the chaos finding a familiar face is priceless.

Officially Maccabiah 2022 had 74 delegations with 10,274 participants.

The Bahamas had six participants, and Azerbaijan seven, the smile on the face of the scout holding the sign could be seen from across the field. And right behind was the Cayman Islands with 2 people.

Smiles and more flags, kept coming, the Czech Republic had four athletes, but Uruguay had 228 and Canada 582.

Finland had 5 athletes, behind its flag, while Argentina sent a large delegation with 787 and there were future athletes “marching” as well.

Smiling faces for the camera seemed endless, but only one winter games mascot was spotted. In Jerusalem, the night cooled off, but I wondered if it was cool enough for that costume?

There was more than one kangaroo in the crowd, Australia had 575 athletes, although it seemed more with so many excited spectators.

So many flags, too many for this post.

From Holland, a documentary team came to film the Under-16 women’s soccer team.

Smoke and confetti filled the air, exciting for the moment, but not great for photography.

The show went on with musical entertainment as the 10,000 Maccabiah participants walked into the stadium and afterward, and found their way up to their seats in the stands before the TV broadcast began.

The “Jewish Olympics,” as the Maccabiah has been called, is the second largest sports event in the world, and has a flame lighting ceremony all its own at the start. Plus a Yizkor, remembering the Olympic athletes murdered in Munich.

No lack of songs and excitement, after hours of waiting to get started.

The scouts in their uniforms had been busy for hours and ended the evening by leading the Hatikvah at the end of the show.

Fireworks and drones and 3-D effects at the conclusion of the night filled the sky over the Jerusalem streets.

Teddy Stadium was lit up in bright colors, as the teams and supporters tried to find their buses and way out.

More from Maccabiah? Photos HERE

That’s a wrap, for the Maccabiah opening, hours to get an entry for a once-in-a-lifetime event. I would venture to say that could be the first and last time President Joe Biden and I are together in Jerusalem at Teddy Stadium.

As the Biden trip is a wrap, I remember the last time I was at Beit Hanasi.

Oh, what a difference from his first trip as Vice President.

The Jerusalem streets are open now, except for the Jerusalem/Maccabiah Night Run on July 18, 2022, that is.

Hope to see you here soon! Lots more is happening but it will have to wait until next time.