By: Arye Green
Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, was played in Abu Dhabi on Saturday after Israel’s 17-year-old Alon Leviev won the gold medal in the under-18 category at the Ju-jitsu World Championship.
Leviev beat competitors from Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, as well as an athlete from Abu Dhabi, in the final, to win the gold in the under-55-kilograms (121 pounds) weight category.
The World Championship in Abu Dhabi, which hosts teams from some 60 countries, is the most important competition of the year for the Israeli Ju-jitsu team. During the competition there are three categories – Youth (under-18), Junior (under-21), and Adults. The first stage of the competition included the Youth category, where Alon Leviev came in first.
The Israeli team will compete in other age categories in the coming days, hoping to win more medals in the lucrative international competition.
Playing the Israeli anthem at the podium would not have been possible until last year, when the United Arab Emirates reversed its ban of Israeli athletes using their country’s symbols such as the flag and anthem at tournaments hosted by the UAE.
The UAE decided to allow Israeli athletes to use their national symbols after the International Judo Federation (IJF) denied the UAE the right to host two international tournaments because of their treatment of Israeli athletes, who were the only athletes not allowed to compete under their own flag or play the national anthem when victorious.
Ju-jitsu operates in Israel as part of the Ayelet Federation of The Non-Olympic Competitive Sports in Israel, which assists Israeli athletes with scholarships, equipment, financing for competitions, and more.
“The Israeli Ju-jitsu team is one of the best in the world and we are already happy with the excellent achievements of our athletes and look forward to more achievements as the tournament progresses,” the Ayelet Federation said in a statement.