The German Soccer Team That Owes Its Existence to Turn-of-the-20th-Century Zionist Thought

Feb. 20 2020

In addition to the dozens of athletic teams in Israel bear the name “Makkabi,” there is also a semi-professional soccer team with that name whose members play wearing Star-of-David jerseys. Amit Naor tells their story:

In late August of 1898, Max Nordau stood at the podium of the Zionist Congress and called for the promotion of “muscular Judaism” (Muskeljudentum), an idea that envisioned the creation of a “new Jew,” typified by physical strength, which was, in his opinion, necessary in order to achieve the national revival of the Jewish people. [A]t the end of October of that year, 48 young Zionists gathered in Berlin and founded an athletics club in the city, a true realization of Nordau’s ideas. They named the club “Bar Kokhba,” after the legendary Jewish hero who led a revolt against Roman rule.

During those years, Jewish clubs of the sort began to spring up like mushrooms after the rain. Most of them chose powerful Hebrew names like ha-Koaḥ (“The Force” or “The Strength”) and ha-Gibor (“The Hero”), or names of heroic figures from scripture such as Gideon and, of course, Makkabi.

Most of the Bar Kokhba Association’s successes were in gymnastics, while the soccer team generally took a backseat to the various other departments. The impressive achievements in gymnastics and boxing reinforced a Jewish sense of pride by showing that Jews were not inferior to their German neighbors. Jewish sports fans especially enjoyed watching the athletes proudly wear the light-blue Star of David on their uniforms. . . . Young members of the association [later] formed the core of a Jewish defense force that helped protect the Jewish quarter in Berlin where Jews were harassed during and after World War I.

These clubs were eventually shut down by the Nazis, but after World War II they were reconstituted by former members in Berlin, and later joined together to form Makkabi, a sports club with 500 members, including the soccer team.

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More about: German Jewry, Max Nordau, Sports, World War I, Zionism

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror