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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sports: Inspiration and Zionist experiences at Maccabiah games

The most touching testimony of the Maccabiah games was the competition of Josh Small, son of Greg Small, one of the victims of the terrible bridge accident twelve years ago at an earlier Maccabiah. He came to Israel all the way from Australia despite the tragic death of his father, or because of it:

"He only started the journey, he never finished it so I want to finish what he began," Josh Small told Australian Associated Press on Thursday. "It's what has inspired me and driven me."

Australia has competed at the Games since 1953 and will field a 400-person team this year for the 10-day games.

Josh Small, who was only seven when his father died, took up bowling at the age of 14. He'll wear his dad's uniform when he begins competing in the Maccabiah event.

"It's something I can't explain," he said. "When I bowl it feels like I have a bond with my father which drives me."

His mother, Suzanne, who suffered serious injuries in the bridge collapse, arranged a coach for Josh -- the same person who coached Greg Small.

"My mom rang him up. He usually doesn't take people under 16 but because of his relationship with dad he took me on when I was 14," Josh Small said.

Even without such tragedies, the Zionist endeavor requires dedication and devotion. Zionist experiences are often physically unpleasant and not objectively rewarding.

Daily News executive Brad Weiss visited Israel for the first time in his life (he's 35) as a participant in the Maccabiah games. He didn't win any medals. He was greeted by the infernal summer heat of Israel,  but he nonetheless found the trip inspiring. The experience you have, and how you or you  or anyone views Israel depends on what you bring with you. This is his story:

Brad Weiss would like to have won a medal at the Maccabiah Games Tuesday in Israel. Unfortunately for the Senior Account Executive-New Business Development for the Daily News, Weiss did not win any hardware. Still, the runner didn't come away empty-handed.
"The way I viewed this race coming in was that it was basically 'the cherry on top of the sundae' in terms of the whole Maccabiah experience," Weiss said in an e-mail last night. "I've made friends for a lifetime and would wholeheartedly recommend the experience to anyone that is given the opportunity to visit Israel."
Weiss finished sixth overall (fourth for men under 40) in the open division for the half marathon at the Maccabiah Games yesterday. He was one of five men running for the United States in the open division and ran a team-best time of 1:21:27. The Maccabiah Games is an international competition for Jewish and Israeli athletes.
"What an amazing experience to be here in Israel for the first time," Weiss said. "The race was one of the most difficult in terms of weather conditions that I've ever run in, not to mention the extremely hilly course."
Weiss, 35, left for Israel July 2 and had a pre-camp workout in Shefayim for before heading to Jerusalem for more training. The half marathon was run in Netanya, Israel at 11:30 a.m. yesterday in temperatures that Weiss said were about 90 degrees.
"Despite the difficulty of the race, I was able to turn to my teammate and good friend (seven miles into the race) to point out the amazing view that was straight ahead of us as the sun was setting over the sea," Weiss said. "It was a surreal moment that I just wanted to take in to soak it all up as I was realizing how lucky I am to have been blessed to be part of this whole experience."
Perhaps Weiss did not win the race, but oerhaps Weiss and the Jewish won something much more important.
Israel and Zionists all over the world need to say thank you to all the athletes who came here to participate and show their faith in Israel and the Zionist endeavor, and especially to the Australian contingent, who kept faith with Israel despite the tragedy of the bridge collapse.
Ami Isseroff

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