College of the Canyons men's basketball head coach Howard Fisher is currently in Israel coaching the USA Youth Men's Basketball team during the 20th World Maccabiah Games. The following is the second in a series of journal entries sharing his thoughts and experiences throughout the trip.
Friday, July 7, 2017
The first week for the entire USA delegation was spent touring historical sites across Israel including the fortress of Masada, floating in the Dead Sea, enjoying a traditional Bedouin meal, and visiting Independence Hall in Tel Aviv. We also visited Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, and Mt. Herzl, Israel's national cemetery, which is similar to Arlington National Cemetery.
Our week ended with a B'nai Mitzvah ceremony for those interested in officially being recognized as an adult in the Jewish community. This usually occurs at one's 13th birthday, but being in Israel presented an opportunity for three of our players to be recognized.
This was a great way for all of our team and the other delegates to connect and learn the history of this young country. The travel was tiring, yet the information and sites we experienced were both invigorating and emotional at the same time.
At the conclusion of our weeklong experience, we were all bussed to our competition areas around the country. We were sent to the northern port town of Haifa where the USS George H.W. Bush had been docked just a few days earlier.
Competition wise, our team had a few limited practices but had not faced another squad in several days. Turkey agreed to a friendly scrimmage since we are in opposite pools. It started out close, with Team USA holding a narrow 7-6 lead while both teams struggled to play through an unfamiliar nervousness. But eventually, we were able to utilize our depth, athleticism and rebounding to win 93-24.
Last night, 80 countries were represented during the opening ceremonies procession. The USA delegation was easily the largest with more than 1,100 competitors. It was amazing to see all the American athletes emerge through the tunnel into Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium like a sea of red, white and blue.
It was a very exciting moment as we walked into the cheers of thousands of people, truly an amazing memory that will not soon be forgotten.
My family texted me that I was caught on live TV with a close up shot, dancing with friends as we marched around the stadium. There was music, singers, dancers, fireworks and a congratulatory wish from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The festivities culminated with the flame being lit and the singing of "Hatikvah" the Israeli National Anthem.
This morning we had our final practice before Sunday's opening game against Team Canada, as we will take tomorrow off to observe Shabbat.
For more information about Coach Fisher and the 20th World Maccabiah Games click here.
The World Maccabiah Games are the world's third largest international sporting event, with more than 9,000 total participants representing over 75 nations.
Maccabi USA, the games' host organization, builds Jewish pride through sports, generating the emotional intensity, high ideals, and powerful camaraderie of competition.