After making aliya through the World Betar Movement’s Mabat program, Israeli taekwondo fighter Oleksandr Filippov dreams of representing the country at the 2020 Olympics..
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Oleksandr Filippov didn’t quite understand the question, and not because his Hebrew is a work in progress.
The 25-year-old taekwondo fighter, who made aliya from Ukraine a little over two years ago, seemed surprise he was even being asked why he had decided to move to Israel.
“I come from a Jewish family and I love Israel, so why not?” explained Filippov, who came to Israel through the World Betar Movement’s Mabat program.
The Mabat participants learn Hebrew in an intensive ulpan program while living in apartments in Jerusalem. They learn to live independently on their monthly budget and also go on trips around Israel in an attempt to enable them to experience authentic life in the country.
Almost all of the participants in the program, which was set up for Jews from the former USSR, end up remaining in Israel, with over 100 men and women making aliya via Mabat last year.
One of the main goals of the program is to help its participants acclimatize in Israel and find their professional future in the country.
For Filippov, taekwondo was always the focus. He currently lives in Ramle and is preparing for the European Championships in May. He is hoping to improve on his exit at the round-of-16 at the 2016 Euros after also reaching the last-16 in his first World Championships last year.
“I want to finish in first place, but in sports there are no guarantees,” said Filippov. “I’ll do my best and I hope that I can win a gold medal at the European Championships. That is the reason I practice so hard and make so many sacrifices.”
Taekwondo, a Korean martial art characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, has been part of the Olympic program since 2000. Israel has been represented in the sport in three of the past four Summer Games, and Filippov is targeting a place at the 2020 Tokyo Games.
“Every athlete wants to reach the Olympics and so do I,” he noted. “I believe that I’m capable of doing so and I’m working hard in order to achieve this goal.”
Nerya Meir, the chairman of World Betar, feels Filippov is the realization of Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s dream when he set up the Revisionist Zionist youth movement in Riga, Latvia, in 1923.
“Alex is a prime example of what Ze’ev Jabotinsky dreamed about 100 years ago,” explained Meir. “His aliya is a wonderful Zionist story.
“World Betar Movement has brought hundreds of young Jews to Israel from Europe over recent years and that is to us the essence of Zionism in this day and age.”