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.