Jews & Sports

from Big Mo's Sports Desk

Shabbat Observance in Taekwondo at Beijing Olympics

Israel will be represented at the Olympic Games in Beijing this month by Bat-El Gatterer, a young religious resident of Kochav Yaakov, located in the Binyamin region of Samaria. Gatterer, a 21-year-old IDF soldier who ends her service on the day she travels to Beijing, will represent Israel in the women's taekwondo martial arts competition, in the 57 kilogram, (125 pound) class.

Because she is an observant Jew, Gatterer does not travel by car on the Sabbath (Friday night and Saturday) - a complication which in the past has meant that she sometimes has had to walk to her competition venues. At the Olympic Games, the young Israeli pioneer will compete on Wednesday and (hopefully) Thursday, August 20-21. Interestingly, if she were in the next weight class up --the highest, 67 kg/147 lb-- her matches would be scheduled on Shabbat.

She won't have to starve, however, thanks to the kosher food that will be provided by the organizers. There will also be plenty of kosher food available for spectators, according to Rabbi Shimon Freundlich, the official Chabad representative in Beijing who has been living in China for seven years.

A Glatt Kosher restaurant - Dini's - will be open during the Games 24 hours a day. The Chabad office in Beijing, added Freundlich, will also be on call to assist all the Israeli athletes and any other Jewish traveler who goes to Beijing for the Olympics - or after.

Gatterer is the oldest of six children born to her parents, both themselves born in France. They moved to Kochav Yaakov in the 1980's, a religious community of more than 1,000 families. The vibrant community is located 12 minutes north of Jerusalem, near Ramallah.

Kochav Yaakov, founded in 1984, and its adjacent sister community of Tel Tzion are populated by a mixture of religious Zionist, hareidi religious Zionist and other observant Jewish Israelis, both Sephardic and Ashkenazic, including 15 to 20 percent English-speaking immigrants.

The young woman says she was slightly surprised at being able to qualify for the Summer Games. She did so by winning the bronze medal at the European qualifying trials in Istanbul, Turkey last January. Gatterer trains at Wingate Sports Institute near Netanya.

[Adapted from the article by Hana Levi Julian (with Nissan Ratzlav-Katz) that was posted on (Arutz Sheva) on August 4, 2008.]

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