JERUSALEM - The 17th Maccabiah Games came to a close Thursday evening with an extravagant ceremony at Jerusalem’s “Sultan’s Pool.”
Earlier, the participants gathered at the Western Wall and then marched en masse to the event’s venue.
Education Minister Limor Livnat thanked the participants and called on them to make aliyah and strengthen the Jewish nation. Prime Minster Ariel Sharon made a similar plea in the opening ceremony.
Olympic judo medalist Arik Zeevi walked on stage with a young female judoka; the two expressed their hope for achievement in sports and peace in our time.
Divas Ronni Duani and Ninet Tayeb belted out two of the country’s hottest hit songs, while the Air Force band reminded us that no official ceremony in Israel is complete without representation from those who secure our borders.
The ceremony was hosted by top model-actress and former MTV Europe VJ Becky Griffin, who spoke of her parent’s immigration to Israel, and by TV star Rodrigo Goldberg, who gave a personal account of the hardships involved in making aliyah.
The most poignant part of the evening was the special tribute to Oren Almog, the child who lost his sight in the terror attack at Haifa’s Maxim restaurant two years ago.
Almog, who lost his brother in the attack, said, “You can see me, but I cannot see you; yet still, I can feel the special Maccabiah atmosphere.”
“After all that I have been through, I know that even if they hurt you, they can’t beat you,” he said. “On this evening I say that if we remain united and maintain the Beyachad (togetherness), no one will be able to defeat us.”