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Israelis murdered at 1972 Munich Olympics honored in moment of silence in Tokyo

(JNS) Israeli Olympic team members who were slaughtered by Palestinian terrorists at the 1972 Munich Olympics were remembered with a moment of silence during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett welcomed the gesture, which represents the first time that their murders have been publically recognized at the world sports competition.

“I welcome this important and historic moment. May their memory be blessed,” he tweeted.

The families of the 11 killed have been asking the International Olympic Committee for this gesture for decades, but until now have been turned down.

“We, the Olympic community, also remember all the Olympians and members of our community who have so sadly left us, in particular, we remember those who lost their lives during the Olympic Games,” said an announcer during the opening ceremony, reported Reuters.

“One group still holds a strong place in all our memories and stands for all those we have lost at the games—the members of the Israeli delegation at the Olympic Games Munich 1972,” the announcer added as the stadium darkened and soft blue light illuminated parts of the arena.

In a statement, widows Ilana Romano and Ankie Spitzer, who watched the ceremony in the stadium along with members of the other families, said: “Justice has finally been done for the husbands, fathers and sons who were murdered in Munich.”

On Sept. 5, 1972, Palestinian gunmen from the Black September terror group took members of the Israeli team hostage at the athletes’ village. Eleven Israelis and one German policeman were eventually killed.

Israel’s minister of culture and sport, Chili Tropper, called the moment a “historic justice.”

“The Tokyo Olympics have just opened, but they are already a historic Olympics—after 49 years, on the main stage, at the opening ceremony, the 11 heroes, the victims of the Munich Olympics, were mentioned,” he said. “Better late than never.”

In related news, Olympics opening ceremony director Kentaro Kobayashi was let go on Thursday after disparaging jokes about the Holocaust from his past went viral online. He said them in the 1990s when he worked as a comedian and children’s entertainer.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga described the comments as “outrageous and unacceptable.”

Jewish vaulter Lilia Akhaimova helps Russia to gymnastics gold medal in Tokyo

(JTA) — Lilia Akhaimova, a Russian Jewish gymnast competing in her first Olympics, had the lowest all-around score on her team during the qualifying round for the finals, in part because of a balance beam fall.

But in the finals itself, she shone on the vault, her specialty, earning the top score among the 24 competitors and helping to propel the Russian Olympic Committee, a.k.a. Team Russia, to the gold medal.

Russia’s gold was made possible by a stunning turn of events in the women’s team gymnastics competition — the withdrawal of U.S. superstar Simone Biles due to unspecified medical issues. Russia scored 169.528, 3.432 points ahead of the Americans, winning the country’s first women gymnastics gold since the 1992 Olympics.

A Vladivostok native, Akhaimova is a two-time World Championships silver medalist and 2018 European champion with the Russian women’s team. She was an alternate at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

She’s also extremely active on TikTok, and has been posting lip-syncs in her team uniform.

Akhaimova will compete in the women’s individual vault competition on Aug. 1.

CAPTION:Russia’s Lilia Akhaimova competes on uneven bars day two of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on July 25, 2021. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

3 Jewish fencers fail to medal in individual events at Tokyo Olympics

(JTA) — Eli Dershwitz returned to the Olympics for redemption after losing in the opening round of the 2016 Rio Games.

It didn’t work out that way for the American Jewish fencer.

On Saturday, he lost in the second round of the individual saber competition at the Tokyo Games to South Korea’s Kim Jung-Hwan. Dershwitz, who was considered a medal favorite, aimed to be the first American man to win gold in saber fencing.

He does have a second chance at medaling, however: This year’s Olympics feature a team competition. He will compete on Wednesday with Team USA fencers Daryl Homer and Andrew Mackiewicz, both of whom also lost in the individual event. The trio is ranked eighth in the team competition.

Dershwitz’s teammate Jake Hoyle, also Jewish, failed to advance past the first round on Sunday in epee. Hoyle, too, will have a second chance in the team epee on Friday.

“Many of the teammates and coaches that I’ve worked with over the years have been Jewish. To me, the world of Team USA fencing feels like one filled with support for Jewish athletes,” Hoyle told Alma ahead of the Olympics. “I’m proud to be a Jewish fencer, and to be part of a community that prioritizes sportsmanship and camaraderie.”

Another Jewish fencer, Eli Schenkel of Canada, also failed to advance past the first round in the men’s individual foil competition. Yet he took it in stride, posting to his Instagram story after the event, “Dream of rocking a Jewfro at the Olympics? [Check emoji].”

Schenkel, too, will compete in the team competition on Sunday.

Caption:  Eli Dershwitz of the United States reacts after his loss to Junghwan Kim of South Korea at the Tokyo Olympics, July 24, 2021. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

19-year-old taekwondo fighter wins Israel’s first Olympic medal in Tokyo

(JTA) — Avishag Semberg, a 19-year-old taekwondo fighter, won bronze in the women’s under 49 kg category on Saturday, giving Israel its first medal of the Tokyo Olympics and its first ever in the sport.

Semberg was not predicted to medal, but she earned the bronze after defeating Turkey’s Rukiye Yldrm. After the match, she embraced Yael Arad, a former judoka who was Israel’s first Olympic medalist in 1992, in the stands, The Times of Israel reported.

“I said to myself, ‘I want this medal more than she does,’ and I did it… I have an Olympic medal at 19, it’s a dream come true,” Semberg said after her win.

Semberg’s first win earlier in the day was Israel’s first ever Olympic win in any taekwondo category. She had won gold in the European championships earlier this year.

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art that involves punching and kicking, often at head height, and sometimes in spinning fashion. Israel is expected to win at least one medal in judo, a Japanese martial art that features wrestling techniques.

Caption: Israel’s Avishag Semberg competes in the women’s -49kg Taekwando tournament on the first day of the Tokyo Olympics, July 24, 2021. (Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)

Algerian judoka quits Olympics to avoid Israeli opponent

(JTA) — An Algerian judoka reportedly pulled out of the Olympics on Thursday after seeing his tournament draw, which would have pitted him against an Israeli opponent in the second round.

“We were not lucky with the draw. We got an Israeli opponent and that’s why we had to retire. We made the right decision,” Fethi Nourine’s coach told Algerian media.

Nourine would have had to face Tohar Butbul in the under 73 kg division. He similarly pulled out of the 2019 World Championships in order to avoid Butbul, according to The Times of Israel.

Nourine is not the first athlete to intentionally evade an Israeli judoka. Iran’s judo federation has long forced its athletes to throw matches to avoid competing against Israelis. The International Judo Federation banned the Iranian team from international competition for a few days this spring over the policy but reinstated them on March 2.

At the 2016 Games in Rio, an Egyptian judoka refused to shake hands with Israeli Ori Sasson after losing to him. Sasson would go on to win a bronze medal in the over 100 kg group.

Butbul is one of several judokas on the impressive Israeli squad, which has a chance of taking home some medals in the sport during the Tokyo Games.

Caption:  Israel’s Tohar Butbul leaves after competing at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam in the Emirati capital, Oct. 25, 2019. (Karim Sahib/AFP via Getty Images)

Second judoka refuses to compete against Israeli opponent in Tokyo Olympics

(JNS) A second judoka dropped out of the Olympic Games in Tokyo in order to avoid facing an opponent from Israel.

Sudan’s Mohamed Abdalrasool weighed in earlier for his match against Israeli judoka Tohar Butbul in the 73-kilogram division but did not show up for the bout on Monday, reported The Guardian. The International Judo Foundation and Sudanese Olympic officials did not provide a reason why Abdalrasool missed the match.

Abdalrasool was supposed to face Algerian Fethi Nourine in an earlier round, but Nourine also pulled out of the Olympics on Saturday because the winner of that fight would have to take on Butbul. The Algerian judoka said he didn’t want to compete against Butbul due to Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, according to Fox News.

The International Judo Foundation (IJF) temporarily suspended Nourine and his coach, Amar Benikhlef, on Saturday, citing the IJF’s “strict non-discrimination policy, promoting solidarity as a key principle, reinforced by the values of judo.” The case was referred to the IJF’s Disciplinary Commission “for further investigation, judgment and final sanctioning beyond the Olympic Games.”

The Algerian Olympic Committee also withdrew Nourine and his coach’s accreditation, and plans to send them home.

Nourine previously dropped out of the 2019 World Judo Championships to avoid competing against Butbul.

The Israeli judoka made it to the Olympic quarterfinals on Monday before losing to South Korea’s An Chang-rim and then Arthur Margelidon of Canada in repechage, ending his first Olympics in seventh place.

Saudi journalists encourage judoka to face Israeli opponent in Olympics

(JNS) A debate on social media is raging over whether Saudi judoka Tahani Al-Qahtani should show up for her match against Israeli judoka Raz Hershko at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

According to a report by MEMRI published on Monday, some Saudis and Palestinians have called on Al-Qahtani to withdraw from the games, though many Saudi journalists and intellectuals online are encouraging her to show up for the match.

One journalist posted news about Israeli taekwondo athlete Avishag Semberg who won the bronze after defeating a Turkish opponent and said: “A Turkish athlete is allowed to compete with an Israeli, but a Saudi is not.”

Liberal Saudi intellectual Turki Al-Hamad posted on Twitter: “I fervently hope that our Saudi champion will not avoid facing the Israeli judoka in a sporting spirit and let her immediately win [by default]. After all, this is only a sports [match], and Israel will not cease to exist following such a withdrawal. The evil tongues

[calling on Al-Qahtani to withdraw]

will continue to wallow in the quagmire of evil, whether she withdraws or shows up for the match.” Othman Al-Omeir, the editor of the news website Elaph, tweeted: “I support Tahani Al-Qahtani, whether she wins

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