Two Israeli Judokas Win Gold in Judo Grand Slam; Hatikvah Plays for First Time in UAE

The Israeli national anthem, “Hatikvah” (“The Hope”), played for the first time in the United Arab Emirates when Israel’s Sagi Muki claimed the gold medal in the under-81 kilogram category at the International Judo Federation’s Grand Slam competition, which was hosted there. Despite the fact that Israel and Abu Dhabi do not have diplomatic ties, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev was in attendance and took the honors of presenting Muki with his gold medal. The anthem poured through the loudspeakers again just a day later when Peter Paltchik claimed gold in the under-100 kg category. Israeli athletes have competed and won events in the UAE in the past, but the UAE organizers refused to play Hatikvah or to fly the Israeli flag; in 2017, when Israeli judoka Tal Flicker won the gold medal, he could be heard singing the Israeli national anthem by himself, without the musical accompaniment generally provided. The UAE implemented a new policy this year after the International Judo Federation nearly suspended the country from hosting the annual event unless it agreed to honor Israeli winners in a manner similar to competitors from other countries.