Iran,  Israel/Palestine

The Israeli and Iranian Weightlifters

This is a crosspost by Ben Cohen from Z Word

This story is at least a week old, but it doesn’t seem to have had much of an airing, so here goes. At this month’s World Masters Weightlifting Championship in Poland, an Israeli competitor, Sergio Britva, took first place. Britva lifted an astonishing 300kg of weight, beating the second-placed competitor, the Iranian Hossein Khodadadi, by 4 kilos.

The two athletes mounted the podium to receive their medals, together with the third-placed competitor from Germany. Britva and the German shook hands. But when Britva offered his to Khodadadi, the Iranian refused it.

That unsporting gesture didn’t prevent Khodadadi from being rebuked by the Iranian authorities for standing alongside an Israeli. According to Radio Zamaneh, “the Head of Iran’s National Athletic Organization had earlier written a letter to the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, to receive instructions on how to handle situations where Iranian athletes have to confront Israeli athletes.” You don’t need a wild imagination to figure out what those would have been.

And so to this video of the ceremony. At 1′30″, you can see Britva mount the podium draped in an Israeli flag. He shakes hands with the German to his left. He turns to his right, but the Iranian declines. That doesn’t seem to bother Britva, who is deservedly delighted with his victory. Then, at 2′21″, with Khodadadi and Britva still together on the podium, a stirring rendition of Israel’s national anthem, Hatikvah, strikes up. Britva stands erect and solemn, choking back tears of pride and joy. His image then dissolves into another of the Israeli flag atop the Iranian and the German.

I don’t know whether the Polish producers of the broadcast understood the enormous historical resonance here, but it really has to be seen.

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