|Standing With Israel In Aftermath Of Maccabi|
By Richard Friedman,
BJF-LJCC Executive Director
One of the most emotional moments at the opening ceremonies of the recent JCC Maccabi Games in Birmingham came when a large delegation of teen athletes from Israel entered the arena.
Though these young Israelis were next to the last delegation to enter Bartow Arena at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where the opening ceremonies were held (the Birmingham delegation was the last to enter), members of the large crowd rose to their feet to give the Israeli delegation a standing ovation.
Robert Levin, a well-known Birmingham pediatrician who doubles as the announcer for the University of Alabama marching band at football games, introduced all the delegations over the PA system.
As Robert introduced the Israelis in a voice that could barely be heard above the cheering crowd, he proclaimed, “What would Maccabi be without athletes from Israel, and what would we as Jews be without Israel?”
“These Israeli teens are OUR children, and we envelop them with affection,” he continued “They are Israel’s future, they lift our hearts. Our love for their country unites us and we say ‘Shalom.’ We are glad you are here. Welcome, Team Israel.”
It was powerful and emotional seeing countless families in our community — of different Jewish denominations and political viewpoints — standing for Israel. And now that Birmingham’s Maccabi Games are over — what a week it was! — it’s imperative that we stand WITH Israel as well.
Our beloved Israel is facing some tough times. Infighting and dissension among the different branches of Judaism has created tension in the Jewish state; there is deep division over Israel’s approach to managing the Palestinian population under its control; there are too many Israeli political leaders who’ve either been accused of or convicted of corruption and other illegalities, and there have been lawless acts against innocent Palestinians.
Like our own country, Israel can be frustrating at times — and imperfect. Nonetheless when measured fairly against the behavior of other countries, and its complexities and security needs are taken into account, this tiny democracy continues to shine like a beacon.
This Israel — the one that endures as a light unto the nations, the one that remains faithful to democracy and the rule of law, and the one that always is willing to help others in distress, even citizens of countries sworn to Israel’s destruction, is the one we continue to love.
So, as Birmingham’s Maccabi Games live on in our hearts, let’s resolve with even greater determination to stand with Israel, just as we stood for Israel on that memorable opening night. At the Levite Jewish Community Center and the Birmingham Jewish Federation, we’ll continue standing with Israel as both a reflection of the Maccabi spirit and our gratitude to the large delegation of Israeli teens who came here for a glorious week that enriched all of us.
From the Birmingham Jewish Federation