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Maccabi Tzair’s Annual Torch Races

February 1, 2019
Noam Duzy

Nes Ziona, Israel

This Hannukah, like every year, the students and counselors of the Maccabi Tzair Youth Movement, took part in the traditional torch races. The torch race began 74 years ago, as a sports event styled like relay race. The participants ran along a main highway connecting the Maccabees’ graves and Jerusalem and passed a torch from hand to hand. On their way, every time they passed by a city where there was a branch (chapter) of Maccabi, they would use the torch to light a smaller torch, which would then be passed between the students throughout that town. This way the Maccabees’ fire was spread throughout Israel every year.

Today, there are two torch races: the students’ torch race and the counselors’ torch race. On the students’ torch race, the branches split up by grades. The 3rd-6th graders hiked in one of Israel’s beautiful views, The 7th graders volunteered and contributed to the Israeli agriculture, and the 8th graders, our eldest pupils, had their very own special track. At the end, all members of Maccabi Tzair joined one another for a festive torch parade in Jerusalem, for the closing ceremony where Stephane, an Israeli hip hop singer, performed.

In the counselors’ torch race, all the counselors of Maccabi Tzair participate  together, but the activities are separated by branches. The counselors’ torch race traditionally takes place in the Negev desert and is known as a trip that includes long, challenging tracks and a camping experience in the cold. But this year it rained heavily so the “camping” moved to a school in the Negev - certainly a special experience. The counselors’ torch race also includes the annual “highlight” of the counselors, in which every counselor receives his/her annual pin in a special ceremony.

Maccabi Tzair takes great pride in the torch races, as Hannukah is the Maccabees’ holiday. The torch races are considered by many as the most enjoyable trips Maccabi Tzair youth movement has to offer. Perhaps one of the causes for this is the bonding atmosphere that is brought on by this tradition. This feeling of being part of something big – not only a part of a group, a certain grade, or a branch, but a part of a national  youth movement with members from all over, which somehow still manages to feel like one big family.

Noam is a Member of Maccabi Tzair Nes Ziona in Israel.

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