UCSD Student Playing Abroad

    Despite political unrest in Israel between Muslims and Jewish Israelites, Jewish athletes will compete in this year’s 16th World Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem in a show of international solidarity.

    Included in this year’s U.S. volleyball team for the games is one of UCSD’s own: Revelle sophomore Edan Wernik. The Maccabiah Games are the fourth-largest international Olympic-style event, according to Jordan Weistein, chairman of the U.S. Maccabiah Steering Committee.

    Jewish athletes from around the world compete every four years in this athletic event. According to its founders, the goal of the Maccabiah Games is to enrich the lives of Jewish youth in the United States, Israel and throughout the diaspora with cultural, athletic and educational programs. Officials hope that this event will help to develop international awareness and understanding for Jews.

    Despite apprehension of agitation in Israel, this year’s U.S. delegation is expected to bring 26 different teams that Weistein said will include “”over 700 athletes and coaches, which would make it the largest U.S. Maccabiah team in history.””

    There will be competition in three categories: junior, masters and open. Wernik will compete in the open competition for volleyball.

    Wernik, a bioengineering major who holds dual citizenship in the United States and Israel, has played volleyball for over 13 years. He attended high school in Jerusalem, participated on Jerusalem’s “”Asah”” team, and competed in the national league for five years.

    This year’s national volleyball team is spread out over the entire United States, so the team will have just one intense week of unified play in Los Angeles before traveling to New York and then on to Israel. Because of this, Wernik is required to train on his own to maintain fitness at a competitive level. As part of his training regimen, he currently plays for UCSD’s club volleyball team.

    Tryouts for West Coast participants were held in January in Los Angeles. Past teams have included former Olympians such as golfer Bruce Fleisher, gymnast Mitch Gaylord and swimmer Mark Spitz. Although the games are not well-known in the United States, they are extremely popular in Israel.

    The U.S. Department of State recommends that Americans not travel to Israel, though it is not prohibited. However, Maccabiah Team officials still plan to send a large U.S. delegation to the games.

    As a precaution, team officials are working with highly trained security experts, the Maccabiah Safety and Security Committee, which is composed of a brigadier general in the Israel Defense Forces and several heads of security from different Israeli state departments.

    Wernik, a former officer who worked as a spokesman stationed in the Gaza Strip, is not overly concerned with any terrorist threats to the games.

    “”The goal of terrorism is to scare you,”” Wernik said. “”You can’t let that happen. These attacks or threats of future attacks will not discontinue the search for peace and will definitely not keep me from going this summer.””

    The opening ceremonies for this year’s World Maccabiah Games will take place in Jerusalem. The events will be hosted all around Israel from July 16 to July 26.

    According to Weinstein, the formula for success for this event remains constant, despite the political unrest in the area.

    “”Sports is the attraction,”” Weinstein said. “”The land of Israel is the vehicle. Jewish continuity is our primary goal.””

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