This year’s Olympics in Tokyo proved that sports has the power to unite people across cultures and nations. The summer games were not only a success for the state of Israel in terms of medals, but also in terms of fostering diversity, progress, and world peace.
Let’s have a look at these historic achievements:
Saeid Mollaei, a former Iranian Judoka who was forced to flee to Mongolia, competed with Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki to win the silver medal in the men’s 81-kilogram judo division. In a beautiful display of sportsmanship, Mollaei posed for a photo with his Israeli competitor, calling him “champion and dear brother.” When speaking to the Israeli press, Mollaei thanked Israel “for the good energy,” and dedicated his medal to the Jewish state.
Mollaei wasn’t the only Iranian to embrace his political enemy. Iranian coach Vahid Sarlak be-friended an Israeli coach, and together filmed a heartfelt message for the world on the importance of sport for peace.
Speaking of peace, Israeli judo athlete Raz Hersko and her Saudi competitor, Tahani Alwahtani, proudly shook hands after completing their match, not to mention that Israel’s judo team took home the bronze medal this year, thanks to 19-year-old Avishag Semberg.
Israeli gymnasts Linoy Ashram and Artem Dolgopyat also won gold medals for their stunning performances, the former making history as the first-ever Israeli woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics.
Though these victories marked Israel’s second and third Olympic gold medals, there were plenty of firsts to celebrate.
Israel’s baseball team, comprised of players from all different backgrounds, made history this year, qualifying for the first time ever to compete in the Olympics. Before the start of the game, the team stood in pride for Israel’s national anthem.
In another historic first, a moment of silence was observed during the opening ceremony, after the announcer honored the 11 Israeli athletes and coaches killed by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Games.
The acknowledgment of these victims of terrorism came after 49 years of refusal by Olympic officials to mark the anniversary of the slaughter. In protest, on the 40th anniversary, Aly Raisman, Jewish-American gold medal gymnast, paid her own tribute to the Munich 11, dedicating her floor routine to the slain at the 2012 London Olympics.
Finally, Ethiopian-Israeli Marathon runners Marhu Teferi and Selamawit Dagnachew became the first married couple to represent Israel this year. “Even in our wildest dreams we didn’t think this would be possible” said the Teferi.
Creative Community for Peace has always believed in the power of sport to bring people together and we celebrate those who are heroes on and off the Olympic stage.
Photo Credit: By Amos Ben Gershom / Government Press Office (Israel), CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=107718706