After the terrible events of last week we are in need of a Good News Friday post more than ever.
Let’s start with some great news from the Arab Emirates of all places. Israelis have become used to being banned from participating in sporting competitions in Arab countries, so it was a very pleasant surprise to hear that the Israeli judo team took part in the Judo Grand Slam competition in Abu Dhabi.
Even better, Israeli judokas won two gold medals! And the Hatikva was played loud and clear in this Arab country:
First, the Israeli judoka Sagi Muki received the gold medal and the Hatikva was played quite unabashedly:
This was closely followed by Israeli judoka Peter Paltchik, who dedicated his gold medal victory to the victims of the Pittsburgh massacre:
Israeli judoka Peter Paltchik, who was the second Israeli to win a gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, causing the Israeli national anthem “Hatikvah” to ring out in the United Arab Emirates, dedicated the momentous occasion to the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and to Israeli victims of Hamas’ terrorism near Gaza.
Paltchik beat Elmar Gasimov of Azerbaijan on Monday to win the gold medal in the under-100 kilogram weight class.
After receiving his medal on the podium, the anthem was played in Abu Dhabi, just the second time it has been heard in a Gulf state sporting contest, and only a day after it was first played.
“Our Peter is giving the sweetest dessert to a historic journey, and made the Hatikva heard for the second time in the arena in Abu Dhabi,” Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev said in a statement. “The members of the delegation proved superiority throughout the contest by winning five medals. The whole team showed a tremendous fighting spirit.”
Writing about his experience in the Israel Hayom daily, Paltchik said that he dedicated “the medals and the respect earned by our team to the families of the victims of the anti-Semitic attack on Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. I send my condolences to the families of the murdered and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.”
“I also dedicate these medals to the residents of the Gaza periphery, who have faced difficult times in recent days. My heart is with you,” he added.
The residents in Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip have been subjected for the past seven months to a violent and vicious terrorist campaign led by Hamas.
The playing of “Hatikavh” in the UAE filled Israel with immense pride as it came after a bitter battle over anti-Israel discrimination in the international sports arena.
Last year, UAE organizers allowed Israeli competitors to take part in the international competition hosted in their country on the condition that they do not display their flag or play their anthem, even if they win a gold medal.
Huge kol hakavod to our two judokas who did us all proud with their wins. May they go on to ever greater success. Thank you to Peter Paltchik for his beautiful dedication and kudos too to the UAE for finally climbing down the tree of hatred and allowing Israel to participate in competitions in their country.
I would not be surprised if this new opening up from the UAE is connected to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s visit to Oman last week – a visit that would have been unheard of only a year or two ago:
Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday made a surprise visit to Oman, an Arab Muslim state which has no diplomatic ties with Israel.
He did so at the invitation of the country’s leader Sultan Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said, so that the two men could discuss regional issues.
The last such Israeli visit occurred in 1996, when former prime minister Shimon Peres, traveled to Oman to meet with the sultan and to open an Israel Trade Representation office, which was shut four years later, after the start of the Second Intifada in October 2000. The economic ties never reached the level of full diplomatic relations.
Netanyahu has long argued that the Arab world is open to normalized economic ties with Israel, even in advance of any resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After Friday’s visit the Prime Minister’s Office said, “Netanyahu’s visit is a significant step in implementing the policy outlined by Prime Minister Netanyahu to strengthen ties with the countries of the region, while leveraging Israel’s advantages in security, technology and the economy.”
The meeting was greeted with great enthusiasm in the Gulf States writes the Kuwait Times:
MANAMA: Oman described Israel as an accepted Middle East state yesterday, a day after hosting a surprise visit by its prime minister that Washington said could help regional peace efforts. Oman is offering ideas to help Israel and the Palestinians to come together but is not acting as mediator, Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the sultanate’s minister responsible for foreign affairs, told a security summit in Bahrain. “Israel is a state present in the region, and we all understand this,” bin Alawi said. “The world is also aware of this fact. Maybe it is time for Israel to be treated the same [as others states] and also bear the same obligations.”
It is true that the warming ties between Israel and the Gulf States (including Saudi Arabia) are more to do with our common enemy Iran than any change in ideology. Nevertheless this is an extremely important step in opening up and modernising the Middle East. Who knows? Maybe these warming relations will continue even when the Iranian threat passes. Let us hope so.
Talking about support from exotic places, the Chinese entrepeneur Jack Ma Yun, founder and executive chairman of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding, gave a great speech in praise of Israeli innovation in Tel Aviv this week:
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s “Israeli Innovation Summit” opened Thursday at the Tel Aviv Exhibition Grounds. The summit, which addresses the challenges of the future and the contribution of Israeli technology to a better world, is being attended by 1,000 guests, including the Vice President of China, senior executives of Google, Facebook, Alibaba and hundreds of entrepreneurs.
Jack Ma, founder of Chinese internet giant Alibaba noted in his speech: “I get so excited when we talk about innovation… I am very very honored to be invited here today. This innovation center is a gift for the 70th anniversary of Israel. After four days in Israel we learned two things: Innovation and chutzpa; the courage to challenge. In Israel innovation is everywhere. It is so natural… In Israel, if you have a brain and heart, you can make anything possible… Israel is the country that knows that the most precious resource in the world is not oil, not gas, but the human brain. You make the human brain great… Just like Israel, small is beautiful, small is powerful. Today is difficult, tomorrow is difficult, the day after tomorrow is beautiful.”
Just watch and listen to his speech:
If you want a shorter version, Jack Ma gave an even more extraordinary speech back in May. Just watch and listen to this short video and kvell:
Kol hakavod to Jack Ma for his recognition of Israel’s amazing innovations and for his loud and proud support for Israel. It’s not surprising that he himself is such a success given his very good sense!
And to close the circle of support for Israel, here is a Muslim Arab soldier who is not ashamed to say he is a Zionist and is proud of his service in the Nachal Brigade of the IDF:
Kol hakavod to Corporal Yahya and to all the other Muslim soldiers who are proud to serve and defend their country.
With the support of all these good friends from all communities and all corners of the world, we might even see peace break out in our time!
This Shabbat we bless the new incoming month of Kislev, the month in which Chanukah, the festival of light, falls. May these words of support spread some light over Shabbat for all of us.
Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov.