For the first time, Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, was played in Abu Dhabi, as Israeli Judoka Sagi Muki won the gold medal in his weight division, The Times of Israel reported Sunday.
In the tournament, the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam, in which judokas from 62 nations competed, three of Muki’s teammates, Gili Cohen, Baruch Shmailov, and Timna Nelson Levy won bronze medals in their respective weight divisions.
In last year’s tournament, Israeli athletes were not allowed to compete under their own flag. When judoka Tal Flicker won gold in last year’s competition, he mouthed to words to Hatikva, even though the organizers played the theme for the International Judo Federation when he was awarded his medal.
For the first time, too, an Israeli minister, Sports Minister Miri Regev was invited by the government of the United Arab Emirates to the tournament, and attended in an official capacity, even though Israel and the UAE do not have formal relations. During the rendition of Hatikva, Regev was visibly moved.
During her stay in the UAE, Regev also became the first Israeli minister to make a state visit, accompanied by UAE officials, to the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. “This mosque has a message of brotherhood and peace,” Regev inscribed in the mosque’s visitor’s book in Hebrew. “I wish a good life and peace for all.”
“It is a dream come true,” Regev said of the visit to the UAE. “For two years we had talks in order to reach this moment and it was hard to stop the tears. I want to thank the authorities in Abu Dhabi and our hosts here who received us in an exemplary manner.”
In an interview, Muki said that hearing Hatikva in Abu Dhabi was “a very moving time in my career.”
The reception of the Israeli minister and athletes in Abu Dhabi comes at the same time that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman, and that the Omani foreign minister said at a regional conference that it was time for the Gulf States to recognize the Jewish State.
In another sign of Israel’s growing cooperation with Gulf States, earlier this month, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer shared a table with UAE Ambassador Yousef al-Otaiba, at a dinner of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
[Photo: euronews (en français) / YouTube ]