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Game has totally bowled me over

Bowling along . . . Eric Frenkel taking part in the 19th Maccabiah Games

I like taking photographs, so when the looming prospect of the Maccabi games started to impinge on my consciousness, I decided to get involved and do some photography. I went to three days of golf and two days of lawn bowls in Raanana. I was born in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), and when one of my Facebook friends told me that he was going to compete in the Maccabiah in the bowls, under the Zimbabwean flag, I simply had to attend. Many of the Israeli bowls team are English speaking residents.

The men's singles gold medal was won by David Trappler, in Israel since 1994 and someone who features in my childhood memory as having grown up in Bulawayo, my home town.

Aside from playing "carpet bowls" as a child, I had no idea what I was in for, and was very pleasantly surprised when my notion of what bowls is was turned on its head! I have always envisioned bowls as being an old man's game, one that is taken up upon retirement, a game that enables one to pass a quiet Sunday afternoon with friends, rather boring and not requiring much thinking. I soon found out that when played competitively, it is far from boring, is very strategic and is very exciting, with games often being decided right "on the wire" so to speak.

I am a convert, and perhaps I'll take up bowls myself in the near future! However, despite the fact that it is an exciting game, it is difficult to convey this excitement in a static photograph, and I found it almost impossible to get an action shot that was worth anything.

What I did get, aside from a change in perspective, were two interesting stories, both from players representing two small African countries. These people didn't come to win, although I'm sure that they would have loved to have won, they came to further their agendas. The first country is of course Zimbabwe which was represented by Eric Frenkel, an old friend of my father's, also from Bulawayo.

Bulawayo once boasted a thriving Jewish community of 400 families. As is usual, the Jewish community was enterprising and had a disproportionate influence on the surroundings. Today there are some 50 souls, many of whom are resident at Savyon Lodge, a Jewish old age home which also offers kosher accommodation to Jewish travellers passing through Bulawayo. The kitchens are supervised by Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, South Africa's "travelling Rabbi." To this day, meals are still prepared in the kitchen on an old wood/coal fired cast-iron range.

Eric ran a very successful business in Bulawayo called "Cotton Printers" but since Independence he has had to diversify into other fields. He came to compete in the 19th Maccabiah to make a practical demonstration of the Zimbabwe community's solidarity with Israel, to be amongst other 'Yidden' from around the world, and to show everyone that Zimbabwe still exists, that despite their small numbers, Zimbabweans are still to be counted as supporters of Israel. His appearance here and his competitiveness (purely for love) go a long way towards showing that the "blue box" spirit still shines on in Zimbabwe. Well done Eric, you were an exemplary ambassador, and have done your community proud.

The other country is Guinea-Bissau, a tiny country from West Africa with a handful of Jews who do business, have investments and hold residency permits. It fielded both a lawn bowls team and also a basketball team to this year's Maccabiah. Speaking with Andrew Szabo before his team's final game in the bowls, it was clear that this man and his team are big on heart, and their very well publicized "hidden agenda" is to raise money to help save the lives of thousands West African kids. They came to Israel with the aim of raising $20,000 and they have surpassed that goal. As I sat talking with Andrew and his team mate Jonathan Schwartz, a member of another team came to advise them that his team was donating $400 to the cause. All the money collected will go towards buying mosquito netting for the children. Malaria being the killer that it is, these men are heroes. Well done Andrew and your team - you are leading by example. What wonderful ambassadors for the Jewish people you are. 



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Saturday, 02 December 2023

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