Our Tour de France will all about Jewish unity after October 7, says Israel’s team leader

Israel-Premier Tech riders flew to Italy on Wednesday along with two survivors of the massacres


From left: Sylvan Adams, Ron Baron, Gioia Bartali and Enrico Fink in Florence holding a framed Tour de France IPT jersey - photo by Noa Arnon

The Israeli team set to compete in the Tour de France on Wednesday honoured two-time winner of cycling's premier race Gino Bartali for helping save Italian Jews under Nazi occupation.

Israel-Premier Tech (IPT) riders participated in a ceremony in the garden of the Tempio Maggiore Israelitico di Firenze Synagogue, along with two survivors of Hamas's October 7 massacre flown in from Israel, representatives of the local Jewish community and relatives of Bartali.

“The Jews of Florence feel deeply connected to Israel,” Enrico Fink, the president of the Italian city's Jewish community, told the JC.

“We have been suffering for months after October 7 together with our friends, family members and loved ones in Israel. For us, every opportunity to show our appreciation for what Israel stands for and bring our love to those who have been so terribly affected is welcome,” Fink added.

“We also want to share the happiness of having Israel’s biking team competing here. This difficult year is giving it even more significance,” he said.

Ahead of the Tour’s first stage in Florence on Saturday, Sylvan Adams, co-owner of Israel-Premier Tech, stressed to the JC aboard his private jet en route from Tel Aviv to Italy the importance of connecting with Jews across the globe.

“The Grand Depart [of the Tour] will take place in Firenze, a very interesting place with a beautiful synagogue. Mixing with the Jewish community in Florence, at this time and given the worldwide surge of antisemitism provides a morale boost. It solidifies the connections and solidarity between us,” said Adams.

“What Gino did for our people, we will never forget,” he continued. "It’s a remarkable story of humanity and selflessness in such monstrous times."

During the Nazi occupation of Italy during WWII, Bartali, a devout Catholic, helped smuggle forged documents to save Jews from deportation. He would ride 180 km on his bike from Florence to Assisi, where the forgeries were made, and then bring them back hidden in his bicycle frame. Because of his status, the police never suspected him. He also hid a Jewish family, the Goldenbergs, on his property.

In 2013, Yad Vashem recognized Bartali (1914-2000) as a Righteous Among the Nations for risking his life to save Jews during the Holocaust.In 2018, Adams was responsible for organizing Israel’s hosting of the first three stages of the Giro d’Italia cycling race. He invited members of Bartali's family to the event and dedicated the race to him.

“We are ambassadors who show the true face of Israel. Our ethos is to emulate the great Gino Bartali, his legs, his achievements, his heart and his humanity,” Adams said.

Towards the end of Wednesday's ceremony, Adams presented Gioia Bartali, Gino's granddaughter, with an official Tour de France IPT jersey.

“It was very important for me to be here to honor my grandfather. Even more so today to remember what happened through Gino, and it was essential for me to be here,” Gioia told The JC.

Wednesday's event was not without incident. At one point, a woman waving a Palestinian flag approached the entrance of the synagogue and yelled: ‘Israel Assassini.' She was quickly escorted away by security.

As she passed a kosher restaurant across the street, the Jewish patrons began chanting, “Am Yisrael Chai”.

Adams also invited October 7 survivors Avida Bachar and Sharon Shevo to accompany the team to Florence. On Thursday night, they will address the Jewish community at the annual Balagan Cafe cultural festival held outside the local synagogue.

“On October 7, Hamas tortured our people, they did not just kill us, they raped our women, they mutilated us, they kidnapped us and desecrated bodies. They burned our homes. Avida and Sharon miraculously survived. Hashem was looking out for them,” Adams told the JC.

“I heard testimonials from people in southern Israel. You cannot help but be moved. These are Holocaust-like stories. We will be teaching the lesson of October 7 the same way we did the Holocaust to our children, and hopefully the world will take notice,” he added.

Bachar lost his wife, his son and one of his legs during Hamas' invasion.

"It's very important for me to get to know every Jewish community in the whole world. At the end of the day, we only have one country, and we all have to protect and fight for it,” Bachar told the JC.

“It's a connection of responsibility and support. The people who live in Israel believe it's essential and we thank the Jewish communities across the globe for standing by us," he said.

On Friday, the survivors will participate in a short ride with the IPT members and owners. On Saturday, the team will kick off the Tour with a 206 km stage from Florence to Rimini.

Shevo was riding his bicycle, training for the Epic Israel competition, when he was ambushed by Hamas on October 7, and nearly lost an arm. Hamas terrorists set Shevo’s Kibbutz Be’eri home on fire with his wife and children inside. Shevo’s son, Shaked, an IDF officer, fended off the terrorists and saved the family.

"Those who weren't there can't really understand what happened. It's hard to explain being attacked by thousands of terrorists, while your friends are being murdered and your family is under siege,” Shevo told the JC.

“We hope our presence will help explain to the community the extent of the massacre that Hamas conducted. We will try to convey to them what we are fighting against in this war for our existence,” he continued.

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