Israeli Judokas win abroad, Maccabi TLV & Maccabi Haifa ready for UEFA competitions, Hoopsters prepare for Europe

Nov 6, 2023 | Jews in Sports

Sports in the Holy Land are still finding their way into some type of normalcy as the war continues to rage on against Hamas in the Gaza Strip as well as in the north with Hezbollah.

Israeli judokas were able to bring some pride to the nation as Gili Sharir and Raz Hershko both took home the silver medals while Inbar Lanir captured bronze at the European Championships held in Montpellier, France. Sharir won silver in the -63kg category, Hershko grabbed second place in +78kg and Lanir won bronze in -78kg.

“I came to this competition determined to stand on the podium,” Sharir said. “It was so important to me to bring a little joy to the country that I love so much. The State, soldiers, kidnapped and those who were murdered were with me every second of the competition. They gave me a lot of strength and motivation and I dedicate the medal to them.”

Hershko also reflected on her medal, “I’m really happy about winning a medal despite being disappointed about the result in the final. It was very important for me to win a medal at the European Championships especially with the current situation in Israel to show our country that we know how to battle and win in difficult circumstances. I want to dedicate this medal to all those who have been murdered, those being held hostage and I pray that they come home very soon. To the IDF soldiers and security services Wii are working extremely hard and protecting us. 

Lanir gave her feelings about having the opportunity to see the Israeli flag fly high, “I’m so proud to be able to display the flag at very chance that i get in order to show the world that we are strong and nothing will stop us. I dedicate this medal to all of you, to all of our amazing people. We all suffered severe blows that shook our close circles. We will all come out of this period strengthened and united. This medal is a hug from me to you, a small reinforcement of good news. May we know quieter days.”

Coach Shani Hershko also commented on the victories, “It was very important for us to raise the Israeli flag during these days and I’m proud that we were able to do it. I am very proud of Gili, Raz and Inbar for winning their respective medals thanks to a lot of character, determination and endless work. These are days when each and every achievement has a deeper meaning. We love our country.”

Maccabi Tel Aviv are win the processing of preparing in earnest for their UEFA Conference League clash against Zorya Luhansk which will take place in Lublin on Thursday. For the first time in a month all of the players as well as the coaching staff came together in Poland to train as Robbie Keane who had been watching the practices that were held in Israel online was finally able to see his charges up close and personal. The yellow-and-blue, who are playing in Group B have won one game and lost one as well good for 3 points as they look to turn their focus on trying to catch Gent who are a top the group with 7 points after three matches. 

Maccabi Haifa will also return to continental competition when they face Villarreal in Europa League Group F action in Larnaca. The Greens will look to win their first game as they have claimed just one point in their opening two games and will try and narrow the gap to Rennes who are in first place with 6 points. 

The Israel National Team will begin to prepare in earnest for their four 2024 European Championship qualifiers that will be played between November 12-21. The blue-and-white will head to Kosovo and then will “host” Switzerland and Romania in Hungary followed by their last match at Andorra. With Eran Zahavi back with the team after a falling out with sports director Yossi Benayoun there is hope that despite all odds, Israel will take one off the two top spots in Group I and punch their ticket to next summer’s Euros that will be held in Germany.

In other soccer news, Israeli abroad Sagiv Yehezkel who plays for Antalyaspor scored a pair of goals and assisted on another to help his squad down Besiktas 3-2 in the Turkish Super League.

Oded Katash’s Maccabi Tel Aviv Basketball Club will play their first “home away from home” game in Belgrade when they welcome Bayern Munich. The yellow-and-blue are 3-2 in 7th place overall after having topped Milano 98-90 last week. Star guard Wade Baldwin who had been out with a back injury has been gradually practicing with the team and should be ready to go next week when Maccabi will be slated to play a pair of games against Olympiacos and Fenerbahce. The contest against the Turkish squad is scheduled to be played in Istanbul, however, due to a travel alert to that country for Israelis the club is trying to switch home dates.

In other hoops action, Hapoel Holon signed a pair of imports and will head to Bursaspor with a limited roster primarily of foreigners due to the travel restriction for Israelis to Turkey for their game on Wednesday, Hapoel Jerusalem will fly to Portugal for a tilt with Benfica and Hapoel Tel Aviv visits Paris Basketball in EuroCup play.

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