Maccabi Women’s Forum to press for release of female hostages

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Maccabi Women’s Forum to press for release of female hostages

'Sexual assault is never OK. Sexual violence is never OK. Rape is never and will never be resistance', says Sheryl Sandberg, former head of Facebook, at launch of new initiative

The organisation behind the world’s largest Jewish athletic competition is launching a Global Women’s Forum to increase international pressure to release the remaining female hostages held by Hamas.

Maccabi World Union announced the new initiative during its six-day 2024 Congress, where more than 250 attendees representing 31 countries gathered at Kfar Maccabiah campus with an emotional ceremony in memory of the more than 1,100 lives lost on October 7.

The Maccabiah is the second largest sporting event in the world – in terms of number of athletes competing – after the Olympics, and takes place every four years in Israel.

The Global Women’s Forum aims to promote issues related to women and integrate them into decision-making positions in the 100 cities in which Maccabi is active. Its first mission is to increase international pressure for the immediate release of women held by Hamas for more than 230 days.

Amir Gissin, CEO of Maccabi World Union, with representatives of the bereaved families at the opening ceremony of the movement’s congress (left to right): Amit Zander, Ron Peretz, Nirit Raz, and Efraim Aton (Photo: Ronen Topelberg). Pic: Ronen Topelberg%

Among the activities undertaken by the Women’s Forum, which was established unofficially during the war, is the task of co-promoting the film of Sheryl Sandberg, “Screams Before Silence,” which presents testimonies from first responders, experts and prisoners of war who were kidnapped and returned from Hamas captivity.

In a pre-recorded message that was screened during the event, Sandberg said: “Sexual assault is never ok, sexual violence is never ok, rape is never and will never be resistance. No matter what you believe should happen in the Middle East, all of us should be able to come together to condemn the sexual violence of October 7. Instead, so many years after we established that we believe women, too many people are ignoring, or even worse, denying history and that’s why this film is so important.”

Maccabiah Games announces creation of Women’s Forum

On the closing day of the Congress, Maccabiah Games chairman Assaf Gorencalled its next games event “the most meaningful in our generation.”

Scheduled for between July 8-22 next year 2025, more than 10,000 athletes are expected to attend the games, held at various locations throughout the country.  “It’s time to renew our vows. More than ever, Maccabiah 2025 is here,” Goren added.

In the period leading up to Maccabiah 2025, the Regional European Maccabiah Games will be held in London during 2024.

Michael Siegal, President of Maccabi World Union, at the opening ceremony of the annual Congress of the movement (Photo: Ronen Topelberg)

Goren noted a “significant need for renewed connection of the Jewish people in Israel and the Diaspora” following October 7th and said this will happen in Israel during the largest gathering ever of the Maccabiah.

He said: “We want the Maccabiah to be significant, not just a successful Maccabiah, not only a large Maccabiah, but the most meaningful event for every participant whether they are athletes, coaches, escorts, or visitors.”

Sports debuting at Maccabiah 2025 include ninja, catchball, handball, beach tennis and cycling.

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