Israel and Saudi Arabia Provide a Glimpse of Olympic Light

AP Photo/Vincent Thian

In the battle to see who or what can be the most woke in the Tokyo Olympics, in a touch of irony so delicious Alanis Morissette would approve it was two women athletes, Raz Hershko from the free society of Israel and Tahani al-Alqahtani from the anything but free society of Saudi Arabia, that provided a brief moment of sportsmanship and international camaraderie amid the shuffling madness of the wokeomotive breath.


Israeli judokist Hershko was scheduled to face al-Alqahtani from Saudi Arabia in the knockout round Friday. I say scheduled, because earlier in the competition two Muslim athletes on the men’s side, one from Sudan and one from Algeria, had quit rather than face an Israeli opponent. In a rare outburst of intestinal fortitude both the Algerian Olympic Committee and the International Judo Federation suspended the Algerian “fighter” Fethi Nourine and told him to not let the door hit him on his split candy area during his immediate departure from Tokyo.

Even more ironically, Nourine’s scheduled match from which he walked away was against the Sudanese competitor Mohamed Abdalrasool, with the winner facing Israeli Tohar Butbol, about whom not much is known other than anyone making fun of him for his last name is well advised to make sure their health insurance plan is up to date. Abdalrasool managed the rare trick of winning and then losing by default, also refusing to face Butbol. It is unknown exactly what, if anything, will happen to Abdalrasool, although one ales great comfort in knowing that the International Olympic Committee has “vowed to act.” (Brief pause here for all of us to regain composure after a major laughing outburst before continuing.)

Back to the story. With all of this transpiring on the men’s side, one can only imagine what was going through al-Alqahtani’s head while simultaneously prepping for a competition in which the primary objective is doing unto others, as in laying on a whuppin’, before they do unto you and doubtless feeling the pressure to withdraw.


Al-Alqahtani’s response was demonstrating she has more cojones than the entire men’s side of the competition combined, with the exception of Butbol, by showing up for her match against Hershko. Hershko won the match, then extended her hand to al-Alqahtani, who shook it in a pure class measure of sportsmanship. The two then raised each other’s hand in a further sign of sportsmanship. Hershko lost her next match, although given how it was to eventual gold medalist Akita Sone from Japan there is hardly any shame involved.

They did not win any medals, but Hershko and al-Alqahtani won the Olympics Friday. No “it’s all about meeeee,” no bowing to political-wrapped-in- religious pressure. Two athletes, competing with honor and respect. One can only hope theirs is the example others follow. And one can also only hope that should the day come when the work started by President Trump come to fruition, as Saudi Arabia and Israel sign formal documents of peace and trade, Hersko and al-Alqahtani are present at the ceremony.


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