A Message of Peace at the Tokyo Olympics

Stand for Israel  |  July 26, 2021

Israel's Timna Nelson Levy (white) gets ready for her judo women's -57kg repechage bout against Slovenia's Kaja Kajzer during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo on July 26, 2021. (Photo by Jack GUEZ / AFP) (Photo by JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

In the past, Stand for Israel has been shocked when nations who hate Israel force their athletes to adopt hateful attitudes, especially when at the Olympics, a time of international peace and fellowship. What kind of message is that to send to the rest of the world?

Well, we were dismayed to learn from our friends at The Times of Israel that two nations at the ongoing Tokyo Summer Olympics have been forced to forfeit their own dreams in order to further anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate:

A second judoka has pulled out of the Olympics judo competition seemingly to avoid facing Israeli Tohar Butbul, days after his scheduled opponent in a previous round was suspended for doing the same…

“We worked a lot to reach the Olympics… but the Palestinian cause is bigger than all of this,” he said, adding that his decision was “final.”

It is not the first time Nourine has pulled out to avoid facing an Israeli opponent, after pulling a similar move at the 2019 world championships, also in Tokyo.

At the 2016 games, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shahaby quit the sport, just hours after refusing to shake the hand of his victorious Israeli rival Or Sasson in the first round of the men’s over-100kg competition at the Rio Olympics…

But despite this continued hatred and poor sportsmanship, we were also heartened by the following message of friendship, reported on by Algemeiner’s Sharon Wrobel:

Iranian athlete and judo champion Vahid Sarlak and Israel’s national judo coach Shani Hershko sent a message of friendship in sports from the Olympic Games in Tokyo, as Israeli competitor Tohar Butbul faced a second no-show by a scheduled opponent boycotting the Jewish state.

“I am next to Israeli athletes. I have a great message to you. They really love Iranians. Sports is sports, not about politics,” said Sarlak, sitting side by side and hugging Hershko. “I filmed this to show that world athletes love Iran, whether one is Israeli or Iranian. We are all human beings with one nationality. We have no frontiers among human beings.”

Let us continue to pray for the day that such a message – a message of friendship and fellowship – is more common, not only at the Olympic Games, but at all times. And let us pray for God’s shalom, peace.

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