“It is a great experience to win a gold medal in Morocco, hear ‘Hatikva’ and feel so proud of our athletes and the State of Israel,” said national team coach Shani Hershko. Unfortunately, not everyone was happy about this historic event.
Israeli judoka Timna Nelson-Levy overcame her opponents at the Agadir Judo Grand Prix, an international judo competition held in Morocco, and was awarded the gold medal.
Nelson-Levy finished in first place in the under-57-kilogram event, beating Kaja Kazer of Slovenia in the final.
As she stood proudly on the podium Saturday to receive her medal, the “Hatikvah,” Israel’s national anthem, was played, as is the custom at international sports competitions. The Israeli flag was also raised.
However, Morocco’s Justice and Development Party (PJD), its ruling political party, was offended by the display of Israeli national pride.
PJD, an Islamist conservative party, stated that “raising the flag of the Zionist entity and playing its anthem for the first time in the history of the Kingdom of Morocco is a step toward normalization, which is unacceptable and provocative to the feelings of the Moroccan people.”
The PJD urged the “Moroccan authorities to expel immediately the representatives of the Zionist entity from the Moroccan territories” and to punish people or the entity that allowed the “desecration of Moroccan soil.”
The PJD concluded its statement by affirming that “Jerusalem was and will always be the capital of Palestine.”
Arab social media was also ablaze with condemnation, with users calling for the tournament organizers to be prosecuted.
“It is a great experience to win a gold medal in Morocco, hear Hatikva and feel so proud of our athletes and the State of Israel,” said national team coach Shani Hershko, the Jerusalem Post reported. “Our daily work has proven itself time and again. The athletes are working really hard and are setting themselves tough targets in each practice and each competition and are building themselves an amazing future. I’m really proud of them.”
Israel’s Gefen Primo and Inbal Shemesh also brought their country pride by winning a bronze medal.
For years, Israeli athletes have faced boycotts, snubs and logistical hurdles in sporting events involving Arab and Muslim countries.
In November, Morocco refused entry to Israel’s national judo team.
In October, Israel’s Judo team encountered Muslim hostility in Abu Dhabi when the country barred Israel’s team from donning national symbols and refused to play the Jewish state’s national anthem during the tournament.
The 12 Israeli athletes participating in the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam tournament were even prohibited from displaying the letters “ISR” on their uniforms to identify their nationality.
Similarly, in one of the competitions, Israel’s Tohar Butbul beat the UAE’s Rashad Almashjari, who then refused to shake hands after losing.
In February 2017, Iranian karate athlete Majid Hassaninia refused to compete against an Israeli opponent at the 21st Open de Paris – Karate Premier League in France. The Iranian sportsman acted in opposition to the accepted international code of honor in sports.