Olympic Athletes Come In All Shapes and Sizes

Jameel links here to an article about an Orthodox Jewish woman who lives in a yishuv who is competing for Israel in the Olympics in China. When I read this I had a jolt of pure pride.  It also brought back to me some of my feelings when I first came to Israel, and why I decided after a while that I needed to come live here.

As I have written before, I decided to become an Orthodox Jew at the age of 17. While I have never regretted my decision, it came with a bit of trepidation. Accepting upon yourself the halacha (Jewish law) means adding meaning to your life, but it entails, by its very nature, rejecting certain things in the secular world. There was, at the beginning at least, fear that I would need to reject too much.

When I came to Israel for the first time, I was introduced to a lot of things, both “spiritual” and “mundane”. Some of the “mundane” things included seeing Orthodox Jews who worked in professions that were new to me. In America you don’t see Jews who wear kippot (skullcaps) or women who cover their hair working as bus drivers, policemen, politicians, or soldiers. There aren’t too many religious farmers or gym teachers either.

In Israel I met religious women who were actresses and performers – and who didn’t have to compromise their religious beliefs. They were able to perform with other women, in front of women only, in order to circumvent the restrictions of kol isha (Orthodox women cannot perform solos in front of men because it is considered immodest).

Being in Israel does not change the Jewish law. There has always been a certain flexibility, in this case and in many others, if specific conditions are met. But the fact that this is the Jewish state in and of itself helps to create these conditions. In a place where there are so many Jews, there is more chance that you will find enough religious women to make up a band or an acting troupe, and have a large enough audience to make it worthwhile. And, in a place where there are so many Jews, you can find a place where a young Orthodox woman can take up a sport that can lead her to the Olympics.

There are many different reasons why coming to Israel means “living the dream”. Not all of them are necessarily spiritual in nature. Sometimes the dream can mean finding a place to take up kickboxing.

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. ilanadavita
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 10:36:27

    Unfortunately it seems the food for the Israeli team isn’t kosher so she has to rely on snacks (read junk. Wish someone knew some Jews in Pekin who might help her with that; after all there is a kosher restaurant there.

  2. Raizy
    Aug 11, 2008 @ 13:26:20

    I really love this post. We focus too much on all the things that people can’t do because they are religious. It is so nice to read your perspective, which is that there are so many things that we can do!

  3. bec
    Aug 13, 2008 @ 00:50:59

    if what ilanadavita says is true, that’s totally pathetic and especially sad that the israeli team is not able to procure kosher meals for those who keep.

  4. ilanadavita
    Aug 13, 2008 @ 12:03:19

  5. BB
    Aug 13, 2008 @ 18:46:29

    She’s from my yishuv. The parents are olim from France although the kids are pretty Israeli. Also, she is doing tae kwan doe (sp?) and not kickboxing-not that I know the difference.

  6. bec
    Aug 15, 2008 @ 04:19:27

    thanks for providing the link. sadly, i’d be willing to bet that if more than half of the israeli olympic delegates kept kosher, there’d be no problem securing the necessary nutritious food. i forget the exact quote, but i found it very upsetting to read the line from her coach about how she’d prefer gaterer to have the nutritious food for her to perform her best but “she has her faith.” ugh. and the rest of the israelis have what?

  7. ilanadavita
    Aug 15, 2008 @ 15:44:52

    Besides it’s possible to keep kosher and eat healthy food. There’s someting I don’t quite get here.

  8. bec
    Aug 15, 2008 @ 20:53:09

    true. and kosher power bars do exist. and there is a chabad in beijing. and a kosher restaurant as well.
    many years ago i was on a jewish trip to germany. the organizers of the trip claimed no kosher food was available and that the jewish community was on vacation. somehow i managed to get kosher food in spite of the trip organizers. sadly, i fear that jews are so divided that the plight of a jew who keeps kosher is so far removed sometimes from the rest of the community that they don’t even see each other as being part of the same people. it’s like coming from a different planet.

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