The Hebrew word in the title of this blog post is pronounced - Me-Rah-Gesh (with a hard G). It's loosely translated as 'emotional' - but in this case, I don't know if that does it enough justice.
If you read my blog you know that I am big fan of Israeli Judo, and no where near a fan of the political crap that Israeli Judoka need to endure while they compete around the world. Beyond the a handshake refusal in Rio, or explaining to people while Israel competes as part of the European Judo Union, there was all this drama with the Judo World Tour events in both Abu Dhabi and Morocco over the last several years.
Thankfully Mariusz Viser, the Chairman of the IJF, took a stance, and enabled Israel to compete in the Abu Dhabi tournament - under it's own flag. Of course, several Israelis wound up on the podium, and Two, Sagi Muki and Peter Paltchik, won Gold. Some of the nuance missing from this, is that Mr. Viser invited the Israeli Minister of Sport and Culture - Miri Regev - to attend along with the Israeli Delegation. He also asked Minister Regev to present the medals to the winners of Sagi Muki's weight class. You could see her get a little emotional when she puts the medal around Sagi's neck, her awkward embrace of her UAE counterpart - Minister Bin Talal, and watch her stand betwixt him and Mr. Viser as the Israeli national anthem is played. She can be seen singing along as the tears roll down her face. That moment of Me-Rah-Gesh, emotion, pride, coming to a point in your life which you'd never thought you'd see.
And while my Jewish and Israeli pride (fyi - I am not an Israeli citizen, I did live there for about 18 months in the 1990s) is bubbling over, my Judo pride is too.
I've met a lot of people in Judo Dojos and tournaments. Many of whom are very different than me, and who I wouldn't have contact with otherwise. Doctors, Nurses and Medical Technicians. Judges, Lawyers, and Police Officers, Construction Workers, Reports, and Salesman. Young and Old. Representing every religion, race, and nation you can think of. Judo becomes the equalizer. We put on that gi, and everyone is the same. We put our politics and religions aside, and we just play. I hope that spirit continues.