Reflection from Boys’ Baseball Assistant Coach, Josh Katz
The Hotel ANA Haifa welcomed the Sabbath Queen for the athletes of many nations competing at the 2018 International Maccabi Youth Games. The services were led by an Orthodox Rabbi who was born in Great Britain but now lives with his family on a local Kibbutz where he told the Maccabi congregants that he “milks 300 cows per day!”
The Friday night service was held outdoors with a breathtaking view of the setting sun over the Mediterranean Sea. Some 300 athletes attended, from the United States, Canada, and Great Britain along with their respective coaches and Maccabi officials. Although the athletes are of differing sects of Judaism, Shabbat brought them together as one unit. One of the highlights was a group blessing where the athletes blessed their counterparts next to them. After the service, the coaches and athletes went to eat a delicious Shabbat meal, complete with the Hamotzi and Kiddish blessings. During the meal, many athletes sung Shabbat songs as they ate the delicious food.
The Saturday morning service was a much more traditional Orthodox service which included a beautiful Sephardic Torah. The complete service was conducted which included the reading of the Torah and Haftarah portions. The service was notable because the Rabbi – aware of the athletes in varying sects of attendance – took the time to explain certain portions of the service to the congregants.
This beautiful Shabbat weekend stood in stark contrast to the competitiveness of the week that the athletes just experienced. To reflect, it was just a few hours earlier when the athletes strived to defeat their opponents to win a medal and now all of us bonded as Jews with one purpose: To worship our God as one people, regardless of the countries we live in or the manner in which we observe our faith. Having the opportunity to be in the holy State of Israel to celebrate Shabbat is something that not every Jew can say they did, but all of us should strive to do. It was a weekend to remember and something that the athletes and coaches will never forget.