ABU DHABI — Israel’s national anthem was played for the first time in Abu Dhabi at a judo tournament.
Israeli lightweight Judoka Sagi Muki on Sunday, Oct. 28, won a gold medal at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and heard “Hatikvah” played during the medal ceremony.
Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev, who accompanied the team to Abu Dhabi, visibly wept while the anthem was played, Ynet reported. Regev attended despite the fact that Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates.
Muki beat Belgium’s Matthias Casse in the under 81 kg category. Casse advanced to the final round after his Iranian opponent, Saeed Molaei, claimed to be injured within the first 30 seconds of the match.
Haaretz reported that some believe it was a faked injury, so that he would not have to face an opponent from Israel.
Three other Israelis won bronze medals on Saturday: Gili Cohen, Baruch Shamilov and Timna Nelson Levy.
In 2017, five Israeli judokas won medals in Abu Dhabi, including a gold, but tournament organizers refused to play Israel’s national anthem. The Israeli competitors also were required to wear the uniform of the International Judo Federation and received their medals under an IJF flag.
In July, the International Judo Federation, known as the IJF, canceled the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix, “until governmental guarantee is given to ensure free and equal participation of all nations at the said events.” Abu Dhabi was reinstated after the UAE Judo Federation confirmed in an official letter sent to the IJF that all nations participating in the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam would do so under equal conditions.
No flags were displayed in the hall where the matches were fought nor during the medal awards ceremonies, according to the Jerusalem Post.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Muki to congratulate him on his victory.
“You are golden; you promised, and you did it. There are two great things here. There is a fantastic gold here and much hope for Israeli judo. There is much hope when we hear our national anthem; everyone is moved by this honor and pride. It is not only your personal achievement and the Jewish achievement of Israeli sports, but also the fact that the anthem was being played in Abu Dhabi,” Netanyahu said, according to a statement from his office.