Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte (far left) poses with International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer, President of the UAE Judo Federation Mohammad Bin Thaloub AL Darei and UAE Judo, Wrestling and Kickboxing Federation General Secretary Naser AL-Tameemi after they met on Saturday .
(photo credit: INTERNATIONAL JUDO FEDEREATION/COURTESY)
Israel’s judo delegation to Abu Dhabi returned home to a hero’s welcome on Sunday night, proud at having picked up an impressive five medals at the final Grand Slam event of the year and hopeful it would never have to compete under similar conditions again.
With Israel and the UAE not having diplomatic relations, the blue-and-white team was forced to compete under the flag of the International Judo Federation.
The organizers claiming that due to security reasons, the Israelis can’t have their flag on their judo uniform and instead of having ISR (Israel) by their names on the scoreboard and on their backs, they will have to take part as representatives of the IJF.
For the same reason, they explained that should an Israeli win a gold medal, the national anthem would not be played. Israel’s judokas won four bronze medals and one gold, with Tal Flicker singing Hatikva while the IJF anthem was playing in the background after taking the gold medal in the under-66 kilogram competition in the opening day of action last Thursday.
Gili Cohen (women’s under-52kg) won a bronze medal in the first day, with Tohar Butbul (men’s under-73kg) finishing in third place on Friday. Ori Sasson (men’s over-100kg) and Peter Paltchik (men’s under-100kg) also scaled the podium in the last day of competition on Saturday.
During the final day of the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, Israel Judo Association chairman Moshe Ponte met with the President of the International Judo Federation, Marius Vizer, and the President of the UAE Judo, Wrestling and Kickboxing Federation, Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al Darei.
According to the International Judo Federation, Ponte thanked Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al Darei “for the hospitality that was shown to the Israel team.”
Vizer declared the meeting as a “gesture of courage” and said that Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al Darei, and Aref AL-Awani, General Secretary of Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC) “apologized because of the UAE athletes not shaking hands with the Israel athletes and also congratulated the Israel team for their success here.”
“Sometimes with courage, respect and politeness, you can solve tensions and conflicts, which have not been solved since many decades,” added Vizer. “I consider, that even without the flag and anthem of Israel, that their team have been treated very well with high respect during this event. Two years ago we achieved the first participation of Israel team in Abu Dhabi, now it’s the second time, but with a much better approach and I hope in the near future we can achieve the best condition of participation for the Israel teams.”
Vizer credited the IJF for achieving progress in the relationships between Israel and the Arab world.
“Such delicate issues between countries, governments and nations cannot be solved overnight and cannot be solved through the sport immediately,” he noted. “In the last years the IJF has made a lot of work and important steps for the participation and recognition of the Israeli team in countries like Morocco and Emirates and I hope soon we can break down more barriers for more tolerance between countries and nations to express the real value of the sport, friendship unity and solidarity.”