By Kristina Houck
Solana Beach athlete Elliot Cohen is among the nearly 9,000 athletes competing at the 19th World Maccabiah Games in Israel July 18-30.
Athletes from 78 countries are participating in 42 sports, as well as Paralympic events, at the Jewish Olympics-style competition, which is the third largest international sporting event in the world.
Elliot, 15, is a starting soccer player for Team USA juniors.
“I’m excited to be in Israel and play for the U.S.,” said Elliot, an attacking center midfielder, who plays soccer for Canyon Crest Academy and San Diego Surf Soccer Club. “It’s been really fun. I’m getting to meet new friends.”
The team, which includes players born in 1997-1998, defeated Australia 2-0 in the group’s first match after the Opening Ceremonies on July 18. Elliot gave the inspirational talk in the huddle just before kickoff.
“He’s such a passionate player,” said Elliot’s mother, Carolyn Cohen. “It’s very invigorating to watch him. It’s really fun.”
The high school sophomore has played soccer since he was a toddler. His father, David Cohen, played for the U.S. Open Men’s soccer team in the 1985 Maccabiah Games in Israel when he was 27 years old.
David, a Solana Beach chiropractor, is currently in Israel coaching soccer and treating U.S. athletes for sports injuries. Carolyn and her daughter are traveling to Israel on July 22 to watch Elliot play and attend the Closing Ceremonies on July 30.
“Elliot’s very humble about what a great soccer player is,” Carolyn said. “He’s a brilliant soccer player. He’s an integral part of the team.”
In addition to participating in sports competitions, athletes in the World Maccabiah Games tour Israel and learn about the Jewish history and culture.
“It’s a great country,” Elliot said. “I’m really glad that I get to connect with my religion.
“For me, it’s interesting because in California, there’s not that many Jews so it’s kind of tough to be able to connect with people about that. But here, everyone is Jewish, so we have a common connection and I can connect with other people.”
Carolyn said she’s thrilled her son has an opportunity to connect with Israel and fellow Jewish athletes.
“I’m just excited for Elliot to be able to have this life experience,” Carolyn said. “He will be talking to his grandchildren about this. It’s the trip of a lifetime. It’s just unbelievable.”
JLTV, a 24-hour Jewish-themed TV channel, is broadcasting the World Maccabiah Games in the U.S. For more information about the international sporting event, visit