Reflection from Josh Katz, Assistant Baseball Coach
Thank you, Israel, for a wonderful ten days in your beautiful country! Not only were the Israelis great hosts for the 2018 Maccabi Youth Games but they were also great friends. It was an incredible experience to meet athletes and coaches from other delegations as well, as I know they will be friends for life.
What began as intense athletic competition and a quest for medals transitioned into the primary goal for all athletes that attended these games: Jewish bonding and fellowship. There were many activities shared by all athletes that went beyond the playing field and made this goal a reality.
Some of these activities were designed to be fun while others were far more serious. For example, athletes from all delegations came together for a pool party and barbeque. Being able to swim, laugh, and pal around were an excellent way to break the ice. One of the biggest highlights was trading apparel and pins with athletes from all the delegations. Team USA gear was by far the most highly sought after! On a far more serious note, Yad Vashem and Har Herzl were both moving and spiritual. Learning more about the Holocaust and more about our ancestors was a big highlight of the trip and something that the athletes and coaches will never forget.
Additionally, getting the opportunity to work with children with disabilities at Shalva was a heartwarming experience that many of the athletes took advantage of. The athletes were seen on their hands and knees playing basketball with the kids, throwing a ball around, making arts and crafts, singing, dancing, as well as just interacting with the children. This day was something that the children of Shalva will never forget.
Another moving moment was when the delegations toured the Old City of Jerusalem and the Western Wall, where they all came together and sang Hatikvah. It was truly a moving experience to see Jewish athletes from around the world joining together and singing the Israeli National Anthem with the Kotel as the backdrop.
There is no doubt that all the athletes, coaches and staff that attended these games will bring back home to their respective countries memories and new friendships that will last forever. “Next year in Jerusalem” surely became this year in Jerusalem! Although many won medals while others did not, everyone that attended these games left the State of Israel proud of their heritage and faith and aware that we, as Jews, are all bond by common thread, history and future.