Monday, February 22, 2010

Monday's Musings on Sports - Tennis, Rachel and Being Prepared

As regular readers of this blog are aware, the Monday post was usually devoted to sports with highlights and analysis of the Max Kellerman show which formerly aired on 1050 ESPN Radio. As Max has resigned from 1050 and has not yet resurfaced on the NY area radio waves, I have decided to continue the tradition of linking sports to Torah which I believe was an undercurrent of the Max Kellerman show.

Last week there was an international sports story which went virtually ignored by the sports media due to the Olympics and the Tiger "press conference." One year ago, Shahar Peer was denied an entry visa by Dubai to play in a WTA tournament because she was from Israel and Dubai did not feel that it could "provide adequate security." This was a farce as Peer was clearly excluded because Dubai did not want to admit that Israel existed as there are no ties between the countries.

The Peer exclusion created attention in 2009 as Dubai was fined $300,000 by the WTA and several top players boycotted tournaments there in protest.

This year Peer (who was ranked 22nd in the world prior to the tournament) was allowed to play in Dubai. Even so, she was only allowed limit travel in Dubai as she could only be in the stadium or the hotel and could not visit any other location.

Despite all of these "distractions" Peer managed to advance at the tournament, beating the 15th seed, the 24th seed, the top seed and the eight seed before losing to eventual champion Venus Williams in the semi-finals. Yet this story was virtually ignored by the media.

At the same time that the media was ignoring Peer's romp through the tournament, it was making a major story about Israel's addition of Rachel's Tomb and Ma'aras Hamachpeilah to a list of protected historical sites. This was viewed by the media as a provocation since the locations are "holy" to Muslims. Indeed, a recent article quoted a Palestinian leader who stated that Israel was trying to raise tensions by making the "fight" about religion.

It never ceases to amaze me how the media ignores the fact that the main goal of the Palestinians are to eradicate the Jewish presence in Israel. Palestinian talk about how the Temple Mount in Jerusalem is their "third holiest site" - this despite the fact that it is not mentioned in the Koran. Meanwhile, our second and third holiest sites - Rachel's Tomb and Ma'aras Hamachpeilah are in cities which are controlled by the Palestinians (Bethlehem and Hebron). The international media does not seem to have a problem with Jews needing an armed escort to visit these sites or that the cities which house them have been ceded to the Palestinians due to international pressure. Instead, the media just portrays any Jewish presence at these sites as a provocation, without divulging that the Palestinian connection to the locations is less than twelve hundred years old (at most).

The Palestinian focus on erasing the Jewish presence, either in our cities or by the identity of our athletes, reminds me of the Rashi on the first pasuk in the Torah. Rashi asks - why did the Torah have to include the stories in Genesis - couldn't it just have started with the first mitzva related to the Month of Nissan (found in Exodus). Rashi answers that the stories are told so that the world will know that the Jews have been promised the land of Israel.

Imagine how tenuous our hold on Israel would be if the stories were not written in the Torah? Of course the media would be deprived of calling our holy places "biblical sites", but I am sure they would find something else to write about.

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