Devotion and tradition help Israel’s Paralympic team to historic success
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Devotion and tradition help Israel’s Paralympic team to historic success

'There is nothing in the world like that moment when you go into the opening ceremony with the Israeli flag – it’s just amazing'

Ami Omer Dadaon of Israel in action REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo
Ami Omer Dadaon of Israel in action REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

“I’m just so proud.” The emotion was audible in the voice of Ron Bolotin, the head of Israel’s Paralympic delegation. The team completed the Tokyo Games with nine medals overall, including six gold, its highest tally in 33 years.

All but one of the medals was in swimming and three Israeli swimmers — Mark Malyar, Ami Dadaon and Iyad Shalabi — broke world records in the water. “It’s success for a team that isn’t just good athletes, but wonderful human beings and modest people.”

Bolotin, a top swimmer in his youth, was injured by a Sinai landmine during military service in the 1970s, and went on to take part in six Paralympic Games and win six medals.

As delegation head today he sees himself continuing the same proud tradition.

“There is nothing in the world like that moment when you go into the opening ceremony with the Israeli flag – it’s just amazing,” he told Jewish News. But many people don’t realise what stands behind today’s success.

Bolotin said it waas an outdated view to believe the Paralympic team is a bittersweet Israeli legacy, powered by sportspeople who have been injured in army service.

Swimmer Mark Malyar receives his gold medal

“It used to be military disabilities in the 1970s and the 1980s when there were many people who had been hurt in wars, but now it’s an elite sport, and like in any Olympic sport you have to start training as a kid,” he said. “Only five of the 33 people in the squad became disabled in the army, while in the 1970s it was two- thirds of the delegation.”

He thinks three factors today explain Israel’s success: first, the “proud tradition of Paralympic sport and achievements of those who were injured in the military in the 70s and 80s”. 

Second was the “very devoted” coaches, and third was the attitude of the government. “Funding has increased, scholarships are quite good, and governments have shown that Paralympic sports are high priority.” This reverence for Paralympic sport on the part of authorities minimised the impact of lockdowns, which meant that, apart from one month, the athletes continued to train throughout the pandemic.

Israel’s Iyad Shalabi wins the Men’s 100m Backstroke – S1 Final at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on day one of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games in Japan. Picture date: Wednesday August 25, 2021.

Unlike occasional boycotts of sporting events, Israeli competitors felt very welcome at these games, with no politically fuelled antagonism.

“There really isn’t politics here,” he said. “The Paralympics are all about sport.”

One of happy aspects of the Games has been celebrations for Shabbat. “With help from the embassy and Chabad we had celebration with kiddish, wine and challah, and most of the athletes came. Some are religious, some aren’t, but we all celebrated together.”

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments