Eleven Israeli bikers set out from Haifa to the Maccabiah Games in Berlin and on their way rode through Auschwitz with Israeli flags and the eternal Olympic flame.
The motorcycle journey, called Back to Berlin 2015, set out from Israel early this month and will arrive in Berlin on July 27 for the opening ceremony of the European Maccabiah Games, the biggest Jewish sporting event in the world. The games will be held in Germany for the first time, 70 years after the end of World War II.
The Maccabiah Games will be held at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, where the Nazis in 1936 hosted the 11th Olympic Games. That year's Olympics were a showcase for the Nazis' achievements, and athletes of "inferior races"(Jews and blacks) were humiliated.
When Jessie Owens, a black sprinter from the United States, won four gold medals, Hitler left the stadium and didn't come to shake his hand and award him his medals. 79 years later, more than 2,000 Jewish athletes from 30 countries will come to the same stadium.
The highlight at the opening of the Maccabiah Games, which about 15 thousand people are expected to attend, will be the arrival of 11 Israeli motorcyclists, who are replicating the journey Jewish bikers made in 1931.
Those bikers rode from what was then called Palestine across Europe to spread the word to Jewish communities of the existence of the first Maccabiah, which was held a year later. The bikers crossed nine countries – 9,375 kilometers (around 5,825 miles) – and passed through 19 Jewish communities.
A London production company, in partnership with Maccabiah, decided to recreate the journey and accompany it while filming a documentary at the initiative of Catherine Loria.
From Haifa port via Athens to Berlin
11 Israeli bikers are participating in the journey and will be joined during the ride by bikers from Greece, Hungary, Romania, Germany and Canada. Two riders in the group are Holocaust survivors, and the rest are relatives of survivors. Two riders are close relatives of bikers who participated in the 1931 journey.
The journey began by boat from Haifa port to Athens. From Greece the group travelled to Sofia, Bucharest, Budapest, Prague, Warsaw, rode through Auschwitz and will reach the opening ceremony on July 28 at the stadium in Berlin. Each of the motorcycles is flying the Israeli flag. They are also carrying the "eternal flame" of the Maccabiah torch throughout their journey.
One of the highlights of the trip was at the Great Synagogue in Budapest, capital of Hungary, where the bikers were greeted by the Jewish community and the Israeli Ambassador to Hungary Ilan Mor.
The ambassador said that "the arrival of the bikers in Hungary and Budapest on their way from Israel to Berlin is further evidence of the triumph of the Jewish people over the Nazi beast. Their journey is also of great importance against the backdrop of the rise of the extreme right in many European countries, including the countries which the bikers are crossing on their way to Berlin, along with the rising wave of nationalism and anti-Israeli sentiment on the continent."
"Carrying the torch to Berlin will be a victory for us," concluded sports broadcaster Gili Shem Tov who is riding on the journey.