A second Israeli judoka won gold at the Abu Dhabi Judo Grand Slam event, meaning that Israel’s national anthem Hatikva was played once again in the United Arab Emirates.
Israeli Peter Paltchik beat Elmar Gasimov from Azerbaijan, and won the gold medal in the under-100 kilogram (220 pounds) weight class, The Times of Israel reported Monday.
“After receiving his prize on the podium, the Hatikva anthem was played in the arena,” the Times reported, “only the second time it has been heard in a Gulf state sporting contest, and one day after it was first played.”
Paltchik’s medal is the second gold, and fifth overall won by the Israeli team in the tournament.
“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.”
A day earlier, Palthcik's teammate, Sagi Muki, won the gold medal, prompting the historical playing of Hatikva. Regev, the first Israeli minister to pay an official visit to the United Arab Emirates, was visibly moved by the ceremony.
Muki called the experience of hearing Hatikva in the UAE as “a very moving time in my career.”
Last year, at the event, Israelis were not allowed to compete under their own flag and the International Judo Federation's theme played when Tal Flicker won gold in last year’s competition. Flicker, however, mouthed to words to Hatikva at the awards ceremony.
“It is a dream come true,” Regev said of the current 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.”
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 Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs dinner.
[Photo: Judo Klub Crvena Zvezda - Judo Club Red Star / YouTube ]