My father at the 1935 Maccabiah

The second Maccabiah (the sports contest for Jews around the world) was held from 2-10 April 1935. 1,250 athletes from 28 countries participated, competing in 18 events. 

Over the objections of the Mandate Police, the planners staged an impressive procession through the streets of Tel Aviv. Lord Melchett, Honorary President of the Maccabi World Union, reviewed the parade.  The Maccabiah coincided with the early years of Nazi rule in Germany and after Hitler came to power in 1933. The Maccabi organisation used the games as a way to illegally bring Jews to Palestine and to effectively bypass the 1930 British White Paper. All 350 members of the Bulgarian delegation stayed in Palestine; even the orchestra that came with them and performed at the opening and closing ceremonies stayed. Only their sports equipment and musical instruments were shipped back.  The majority of the German and Polish teams stayed in Palestine. Over 60,000 Jews immigrated in 1935.

My grandparents took my 16-year old father and his younger brother from London to see the Maccabiah and to visit Palestine.  I have my father’s diary.

He begins by citing Alexander Kinglake’s book ‘Eothen’: “I have had the pleasure of reading his book ‘Eothen’ many times”. He notes that his family’s trip took place precisely 100 years after Kinglake’s. He titles his diary “Eothen 1935”.

In common with many young people at that time, my father was a pacifist and an internationalist:


On the boat from Trieste to Haifa my father met members of the German Maccabi rowing team: “They told me they were from Berlin where the Nazi anti-semitic terror was not so strong … I heard however some terrible tales from other German boys which confirmed by worst fears about the New Germany.”

In Haifa: “About four hundred German Maccabeans landed in Palestine that day; I wonder how many returned. Many would far rather have been imprisoned as illegal immigrants than return to their home hell”

In the stadium for the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah: “That morning all the competitors and teams were supposed to have marched through the streets of Tel-Aviv together. This demonstration was however stopped by the police”

“All the teams carried national flags except one – Germany”

About the Kibbutzniks:

On relations between the Arabs and the Jews:

At the Western Wall in Jerusalem:

In Safad: “I would very much like to live among the Jews here at Safad …”

But just five years later he was in the British Army…..

The road from Haifa to Tel-Aviv had not been finished:

The 3rd Maccabiah, scheduled for spring of 1938, was postponed until 1950 due to British concerns about large-scale illegal immigration, the Second World War and the 1948 War of Independence. It became the first Maccabiah to be held after the establishment of the State of Israel.

The 21st Maccabiah will be held from July 10th to July 27th 2022 in Israel.

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