5 Israeli para-athletes in Cape Town
Cape Town was the setting for the 4th stop of the 7-series ITC Triathlon World Championships. The triathlon which took place last weekend had representation from 36 countries.
Healing through sport
The event will be remembered, however, for a most remarkable group of athletes who were hailed and applauded by commentators, spectators and participants alike for a heroic show of courage, strength and hope. The group was a five-person Israeli Para-Athletics team who raced under the banner of the Tikvot organisation of whom they are a part.
Tikvot in Hebrew means “Hopes”. It is a non-profit, volunteer-based organisation that rehabilitates Israel’s wounded soldiers and victims of terror through the medium of sport. It was formed in 2007 by former South Africans Jeff Essakow, Rocky Muravitz (current chairman), Vic Essakow and Udi Udelman from Israel.
The director of Tikvot and race organiser was Simone Farbstein, assisted by Tikvot volunteer Ora Rov, formerly Melmed, both expats.
The para-athletes were Michael Katzanelon 55, Moshe Zibersky 42, Adir Mizrahi 40, Yael Inbar 39 and Dvir Avizrat 34. They have been training as triathletes for three years and usually have a six-day-a-week training schedule of about two to three hours each day.
The para-athletic Israeli triathlon group was formed by Farbstein and two of the athletes, Adir and Dvir, and has since grown to comprise 20 athletes.
The Cape Town event consisted of a swim of 1,5km, biking for 40km and a 10km run. The swim had to be cancelled, however, due to intensely low water temperatures on the day.
The athletes did the standard triathlon distance while Michael, called “Katza”, participated in the other event which was the “sprint triathlon”, that being half the distance of the standard race. This is the first international triathlon outside of Israel that these athletes have competed in. Back home they do about seven triathlons a year.
It is important to remember that the Tikvot group competed against regular bodied athletes in all events.
The crowd who watched the Tikvot team in action in Cape Town, could not stop cheering them on. Some Jewish day school learners also took part in the race with some of them racing along with the Tikvot athletes and wearing Tikvot shirts.
In turn, the athletes came away with an unforgettable and enriching experience, having been embraced, supported and loved by all whom they came into contact with during their visit. “They can’t get over the amazing warmth and hospitality of the community,” said Farbstein.
While this was all taking place, another Tikvot athlete Eitan Chermon, was racing in the London Marathon and incredibly, took the gold medal in the Paralympic Marathon event.
Tikvot facilitates approximately 600 people a year. It strives to help wounded victims of terror or soldiers injured through military action, to overcome their pain, trauma and disability and to rebuild productive lives.
These defenders of the State of Israel often have to cope with a long period of hospitalisation and overcome numerous physical and mental problems.
It’s a lot about rebuilding confidence, self-esteem and strengthening morale and helping them believe that they can still succeed and achieve great things despite the setback they have experienced.
Tikvot is not funded by the government but entirely by donors who identify with their cause. Its programmes cater to all ages, including children, and to people with all types of injuries.
Tikvot athletes have won world championships in respective sports and many inspiring stories have emerged with victims of terror advancing through the treatment to go on to achieve sporting and professional successes.
It is well known that South Africa has a long and rich legacy of patriotism for Israel and the IDF. South Africans also have a strong and passionate leaning towards sport and Tikvot has combined the two in a most inspiring and idealistic way.
Tikvot has many testimonies of people who have been rehabilitated through their programme. Noam Gershony was a helicopter pilot who was severely wounded during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. He participated in the Paralympics in London 2012 where he won a gold medal for tennis.
Noam claims: “Sport is first and foremost for one’s soul – unrelated to whether one wins or loses. It is fun, it makes one feel great, and through sports, one can discover qualities about oneself that one never knew existed.”
* To support this amazing organisation, donations can be extended to them through the SAZF.
Shabbat Around The World beams out from Jozi
More than 75 devices around the globe logged in to Beit Luria’s World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) Shabbat Around the World programme on Friday, 15 January.
Whether it was breakfast time in California, tea time in Europe, or time to break challah in Johannesburg, participants logged in to take part in Beit Luria’s Kabbalat Shabbat service.
Among those participating were Rabbi Sergio Bergman, the president of the WUPJ; chairperson Carole Sterling; and Rabbi Nathan Alfred, the head of international relations. Singers Tulla Eckhart and Brian Joffe performed songs from a global array of artists, along with Toto’s Africa to add a little local flair to the service. After kiddish was said and bread was broken, Rabbi Bergman thanked Beit Luria for hosting the WUPJ. The shul looks forward to more collaborations with its global friends in the future.
UJW Sewing School graduates model creations
The outfits modelled by graduates of the Union of Jewish Women’s (UJW’s) Sewing School were all the more spectacular for the fact that some of their creators had never seen a sewing machine prior to the four-month course.
They were modelled at the school’s graduation ceremony at Oxford Shul on 15 December to much excitement and applause.
UJW executive member and Sewing School Manager Ariane Heneck expressed her gratitude to Chido Tsodzo, the school’s superb teacher, and the event ended with a much appreciated lunch for graduates and their invited guests.
The self-empowerment Sewing School for unemployed men and women was started by the UJW 10 years ago. It now has a small production team of ex-students, and some of its graduates have been employed in factories, while others are selling their own creations.
Israel Rugby 7s to camp with the Blitzbokke
The thrill-a-minute Rugby 7s have captured the hearts of fans around the world. The Blitzbokke, South Africa’s national Rugby 7s team, ranks second in the world, and is among the most exciting, formidable, and feared of 7s teams.
Exactly 9 191 km away are the Israelis, an emerging rugby nation that has talent, determination, and a world-class coach in South African Kevin Musikanth. Now, these two squads will meet. The Israeli 7s side will be travelling to the SAS Rugby Academy in Stellenbosch to train with the Blitzbokke.
The Blitzbokke will have the opportunity to prepare for the coming 7s rugby season by measuring their skills of play against the Israelis. And the Israelis, well, they will be rubbing shoulders with, and learning from the best in the world and honing their skills for their coming European Rugby season.
“It’s an opportunity for our boys to learn from the world’s best,” says Musikanth. The SAS Rugby Academy is run by the legendary Frankie Horn, a technical expert whose coaching guidelines and methods are second to none in World Rugby 7s.
Musikanth took over as Rugby 15s head coach in Israel in 2018, and in October 2019, he became director of rugby for the Israeli Rugby Union and head coach for the national programmes of both the 15s and the 7s.
Horn visited Israel last December at the behest of Rugby Israel and its supporting Olympic body and since then, the partnership has continued to grow. The upcoming training camp will begin in Israel, where Horn, together with Phil Snyman, the former Blitzbok captain and multiple world champion winner, will spend a week with the players and coaching staff at Wingate, Netanya, the home base of Rugby Israel. They will then all travel to Stellenbosch for a week’s camp with the Blitzbokke.
“We’ve already seen the difference through our partnership with Frankie. Two of our players were spotted by him on his previous trip to Israel, and have been training at SAS on the off-season,” says Musikanth. The two players are Omer Levinson (scrum half) and Yotam Shulman (lock).
Horn, technical advisor to Rugby Israel’s 7s, says “It is a great opportunity for both teams to derive positive benefit from the camp.”
Israel Rugby has been making considerable professional strides since Musikanth took over the reins. Israel 15s played their 100th test match against Cyprus and celebrated with a 34-22 victory.
“We’re in the top 25 in Europe in 15s and in the top 16 in 7s, the toughest, most competitive continent in world rugby,” says Musikanth, “and I can realistically see us setting our sights on the Top 15 and Top 12 respectively in the future.”
Currently, there are three eligible South Africans who are on the Israeli national squad: Jayson Ferera as flanker (Pirates Rugby Club), Daniel Stein as fly half (studying in Israel), and Jared Sichel as prop (Hamilton’s Rugby Club, Cape Town). Eligibility to play for a national team in rugby is stricter than in other sports. One does not qualify just because one has a passport. One has to have had a parent or grandparent that was born in that country or one has to have lived in the country for at least three years.
“With so much Jewish rugby talent around the world, we would be able to put a world-class Israeli national team together if not for the measures that restrict eligibility to national call ups,” says Musikanth.
The Israel Rugby development project was accelerated thanks to Musikanth initiating Bridges through Rugby. This project is the collective effort of a few South African Jewish businessmen who appreciate the long-term vision of Israel becoming a stronger rugby nation. They have come on board to assist with this most opportune tour. National financial support is fixed and, as such, is limited. While the strong players and national coaches will be attending the training camp in Stellenbosch, there will be some that will, unfortunately, have to stay behind.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our players and coaches. To get to see the best upfront and feed off their knowledge is going to be incredible,” says Musikanth. “Everyone is eager to go, of course, but there is a cap to the support we have in place. We would like to take a development u20 squad as well as coaching staff who would carry the benefits of this into the future. A rugby visit to Stellenbosch can change rugby lives in many respects. Stellenbosch is rugby utopia!”
Rugby aside, with the Israelis and South Africans camping together, the question of what will be for dinner after a gruelling day’s training may be a matter of contention. A tussle for whether to serve boerewors or shwarma may result in a scrum in the SAS dining hall to determine the outcome.
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