On the occasion of the Tel Aviv Grand Slam, once again, judo demonstrates its ability to unite and give hope to those who need it most. Among these young people, who are looking for happiness, Adam, Tova and Pandak, accompanied and supervised by Neta and Tavor, had the pleasure of being able to attend the competition. To understand why such an event plays a crucial role in the educational development of these young people, we must understand where they come from.

Ofer Ben Zvi is an international referee and he will officiate throughout the weekend, on the tatami of the Shlomo Arena. He is also very involved in the education of deprived youth who live south of Tel Aviv. "Today there are dozens of thousands of people living in complicated conditions. Many of these families have fled their country of origin, whether in Africa or even further afield. Parents have reached Israel sometimes by walking. They crossed Egypt, then the border with Israel and settled here. Most are asylum seekers or refugees. What is certain is that they live in precarious conditions.

The Kadima Association helps these families. My son, Sagi, before leaving to do his military service, spent a year within the community and, as he is a judoka, he set up activities around judo. I gave him tatami and judogi from my judo club and the programme started."

It was enough to see the faces light up with joy, those of the young people who came to watch the grand slam, to understand that their lives have already been changed thanks to judo. "We feel good here, in the middle of the public and all these champions. It's very interesting and we are excited to be able to watch judo live," they explain. "It's great to see so many women competing at the highest level. I think it's more interesting than the men’s categories and it was great because at one point all three matches were women's," adds Tova.

As a chorus, they concluded, "One day, we would like to be in their place on the tatami.”

Ofer Ben Zvi

For the moment, as Ofer Ben Zvi explains, the focus is on education, "Children who live in the community face many challenges. We ourselves have to take into account cultural differences, but thanks to judo, we can do it. The young people present here are examples of this. After a year of practise, we were able to organise a first grade examination, for the level of the yellow belt. This is only the beginning and it is encouraging. At the moment there is a group of 25 children participating in judo. The potential is obviously much greater but first we must ensure that we can continue over time. After my son went to do his military service, we were lucky to find someone else, so we kept going.

Tova, for example, is a young girl with great potential and if we can offer her the possibility of dreaming, we must do it for her and for all the others. I hope that with judo we can contribute to the development of the community and bring our values forward for a more balanced society."

Adam, Tova, Pandak, Neta and Tavor returned to the stands to watch the competition and Ofer went back to the tatami to referee the competition. Everyone experienced this first day of competition at 100 kilometres per hour and everyone will be able to go home with the feeling that they have taken part in something great, thanks to judo.

See also