The Maccabiah Games have always been a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous, from moving displays of international Jewish unity to typical Israeli foibles — a tennis match this week was interrupted by a nearby military exercise.
This year’s games are no exception: from the inspiring side of the ledger, a Cuban delegation has managed to get a spot at the games for the first time, despite the lack of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Israel. And on the more surreal side, Knicks Power Forward Amar’e Stoudemire posed back-to-back with Israeli President Shimon Peres, which helped dispel rumors that the 89-year-old diplomat is considering a professional basketball career.
And, combining both the sublime and the ridiculous, Dr. Jane Katz, a 70-year-old swimming instructor from New York, joined the games for her 14th time since she first began competing in 1957.
The Israeli national team has so far been dominating the field, taking 12 gold medals in the games’ Masters category to the United States’ 5. The Juniors category also lopsidedly favored the home team, with Israel leading the US in gold 44 to 27; Hungary trailed a distant third with two gold medals.
One American athlete seemed chipper anyway — in fact, Aly Raisman, the Olympic gold-medalist in gymnastics hailing from Massachusetts, was just enjoying the ride. She thinks Maccabiah stacks up pretty well compared to the Olympics: “When I was at the Olympics, I never expected to get so much love and support from everyone. I just…took it as another competition and just another routine…. here, I’ve been recognized a lot more, so it’s really amazing.”