The coach wanted the world to see the hate

First Person

November 24, 2016 23:21

I’m sitting at my window seat and getting comfy for the short flight from Frankfurt to Israel, when the Israeli Olympic judo medal winner — whose hand would not be shaken by his loser Egyptian opponent— comes in and scoots down into the aisle seat.

His coach sits down between us. I grew up in LA and really don’t get all caught up in the hoopla of Hollywood.

But I found myself honoured and humbled to be in the presence of Ori Sasson and his coach, Oren Smadja.

It’s eye opening and fascinating to have these modern day heroes of Israel sitting in economy, folding their massive legs into these tiny spaces.

Every Israeli is family and so we get to talking and laughing and sharing family secrets within five minutes.

Coach told me that when Ori’s handshake was refused, he knew it would be awesome for the world to see that. He wanted the world to see with their own eyes that even in an Olympic sport where politics should be excluded, the hate is overwhelming towards the Jews. Even though, as usual, the Jew comes to the Muslim with outstretched arms of peace.

They got hundreds of Facebook messages saying that Arabs would kill him if he touches the Egyptian. All the Egyptians’ mates and coaches were pounding their chests and saying “Allahu Akbar!”.

This hulk of a guy, Ori, is refined and talks gently. He smiles easily. He’s young and single and super good looking.
I asked about his involvement in Judaism and he was proud to say he put on tefillin on the day of the winning match.

The flight’s almost done and they’re all getting into the team spirit. There will be a big welcome at Ben Gurion. There’s nothing like the feeling of Israelis who are proud of the homeland. The happiness and pride is tangible. Everyone is abuzz and feeling like we all just won the medal. Ori’s joy is our joy. Jews are one big family. No doubt he fought hard to win the medal for himself, but I believe he worked equally hard to be a champion for his country and his people.

We’re landing and I see the nerves are getting activated. Oren and Ori are a bit quieter now. These are representatives of the Land of Israel and everything we stand for as a nation of Jews.

Hindel Swerdlov works for Chabad Terror Victims Project ( and posted an extended version of this piece on Facebook on Tuesday

November 24, 2016 23:21

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