By Jspace Staff. The opening of the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel yesterday was a star studded event, with the best and brightest in Jewish sports turning out to participate.
US favorite Aly Raisman, who won gold in last summer’s Olympics after performing her gymnastics floor routine to Hava Nagilah, lit the opening torch as 30,000 attendees showed up to applaud.
The ceremony took place at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium, welcoming the 9,000 Jewish athletes who will compete in the coming days in a slew of athletic competitions. Israeli and Jewish performers were on hand as well to get the crowd energized, including “X-Factor” runner up Carly Rose Soneclar, who sang a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”
President Obama addressed the crowd via satellite, noting the “unshakable bond” between the US and Israel. Also speaking was Israeli President Shimon Peres, who met yesterday with NBA player and Team Canada basketball coach Amar’e Stoudemire.
“We have come from different places, but we belong to the same family,” Peres said last night. “A family whose face is always turned towards Jerusalem. Jerusalem the eternal capital of our people. The capital of justice and peace.”
And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took to the podium, welcoming the enthused athletes to their homeland.
“After winning medals and winning achievement, go tour Israel. This is your country,” he said. “I’ll tell you the truth. I hope you and your families decide after this visit to come and live here.”
The competing athletes represent 78 different countries. The Israeli contingent is made up of 2,270 Israelis, and the US team numbers 1,100.
An estimated 150 of those competing also participated in the 2012 London Olympic Games.