Students attend JCC Maccabi Games in Israel


From July 5 to July 25, juniors Cole Bush and Samuel Bernstein participated in the JCC Maccabi Games in Israel. The games are the largest gathering of Jewish youth in the world, bringing together teenagers from North America, South America, Europe and Israel.

The opportunity to participate in this three week-long program was originally presented to Bush via his trip counselor and old baseball coach, Ethan Cohen.

“He got in contact with us and I got in contact with a couple other people. I got in contact with Sammy and we learned more about the event,” Bush said.

The trip included a week in Haifa oriented around sports. The games took on an Olympic-style setup, including opening and closing ceremonies, cultural events and competitions. Participants could choose from a variety of sports including, but not limited to, baseball, basketball, soccer, tennis and hockey. 

“You had your team the first day you were there, you practiced and every day you would have a game or two. You also had playoffs and finals,” Bush said.

Bush played soccer while Bernstein played basketball. The teams were international; Bush’s team included teenagers from Ukraine, Hungary, Miami Beach, Morocco and more. Both Bush and Bernstein medaled in their sport.

After the games in Haifa, the group visited culturally and historically significant locations across Israel.

“The first week you were kind of isolated in Haifa and then you toured around for the other two weeks. You’re on a bus, they were long days, but it was pretty fun,” Bernstein said.

The trip shifted focus from sports to become more religion-oriented during the following weeks. As they toured, Bernstein and Bush got to experience the homeland of their religion. They were able to meet up with Goldman Union Camp Institution (GUCI) campers Musa Suriel and Sierra Krichiev, both juniors at NC, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Israel.

One of the most surreal aspects of the trip was experiencing places they had only known of previously through stories and teachings.

“I thought Jerusalem was really interesting just because we hear all through Sunday school about these religious places,” Bush said, “You hear about Temple Mount and the Western Wall and stuff like that. You’re actually there and you’re where they talk about everything. You hear all of the bible stories and you’re just in that place where it actually happened.”

Even apart from the religious factor, the nature of life in Israel differed from what they were used to in America. It was the uniqueness of being in a foreign country – witnessing their daily lives and architecture – that stuck out throughout the trip.

“I personally really enjoyed Tel Aviv,” Bernstein said, “I think the markets were really cool to see; you don’t see anything like that in America – well, at least in Indiana. Also seeing old-structured Jerusalem, that was really awesome for me.”

The aspect of the trip that truly stood out to Bernstein and Bush was being in a country dominant in their religion. While only 2.4% of the adult population in the United States is Jewish, Jews make up 73.5% of the Israeli population.

“I think, overall, it was great to meet new people,” Bernstein said, “Knowing that you are somewhere where you can be comfortable being Jewish, not being afraid to do any Jewish traditions or anything – it was really cool.” 

Not only were they able to connect to the native Jewish population of Israel, but they had the chance to meet around 600 teenagers to share their religion with.

“I liked being around that many Jews, that many people who were just like me,” Bush said, “I haven’t had an experience like that before.It was just a good experience to get to know a bunch of people, meet new people and make memories that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life.”

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Cailyn Robertson
Cailyn Robertson, Sports Editor
Cailyn Robertson is a junior and has been involved with NCHS Live! since her sophomore year. Robertson plays soccer at IFA and is a part of Hispanic Honors Society and Med Club at NC. She has two dogs, two cats and likes to read.
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