An Israeli take on the Sandy Koufax Yom Kippur story

An Israeli take on the Sandy Koufax Yom Kippur story

In the 1965 World Series, Sandy Koufax of the Los Angeles Dodgers famously decided not to pitch against the Minnesota Twins on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. 

Over the past 50-plus years, the Sandy Koufax Yom Kippur story has been told and re-told. It gets told at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, at Friday night dinner tables, at weddings, at Passover and, this is also key, at the 4th of July, over turkey at Thanksgiving and with, say, friends by their Christmas tree. The reason for all this telling is simple. Sandy Koufax proved at the 1965 World Series that American Jews could be both American and Jewish. You didn’t have to choose. You could be both without sacrificing either.

Now comes Dan Kremer, who is Israeli and Jewish, and the World Equestrian Games, which are ongoing now in a little town in the western North Carolina mountains called Tryon — assuming Hurricane Florence doesn’t get there — and, as it turns out, Israel for the first time on the international stage has put together a show jumping team with an eye toward someday making the Olympics, the WEG jumping competition is scheduled for Yom Kippur, September 19, and Dan Kremer made it plain that, just like Sandy Koufax, he could not and would not take part on Yom Kippur.

All of which raises a fascinating series of questions. 

A new normal: Israel and the business of Olympic sport

A new normal: Israel and the business of Olympic sport

TEL AVIV — One of my brothers lives in Northern California, a few miles away from Apple’s new circular spaceship-like campus. A few days ago, hanging out, we ate one of his favorite spots, Falafel Stop.

First, the falafel was amazing. If you’re ever there, seriously — awesome.

Second, Falafel Stop is the sort of place that would make Trump World supporters go berserk. Here was America in the 21st century for real: two Iranian-American couples who’d driven down from San Mateo on a double date because the Yelp reviews made Falafel Stop out to be so good; a pair of Indian-American families at one of the tables, each with a 3-year-old boy; a couple of gearhead car dudes wrapped up in a discussion over whether a 2004 Lexus i300 is the best used-car buy, like, maybe ever. 

Third, all this was because the Israelis had made it very cool to eat — and hang out — there. For anyone and everyone. 

Which is the point. 

In tech, medicine, beauty and skin care, food, all kinds of things, Israel is increasingly one of the world’s cool brands.

Now — what about sports?

Peace, love, understanding -- and geopolitics?

SINGAPORE -- So much for peace, love and understanding. A signal feature of the International Olympic Committee's Youth Games initiative now underway here is a wide-ranging educational component aimed at the 14- to 18-year-old competitors.

What to teach about what happened on the very first night of competition, in the finals Sunday of the boys' under-48 kilogram (106-pound) taekwondo competition?

The final matched two 17-year-old boys:

In red: Gili Haimovitz of Israel, a four-time national champion, a bronze medalist in the under-51 kilo class earlier this year at the Austrian Open.

In blue: Mohammad Soleimani of Iran.

In the semifinals, Soleimani had defeated American Gregory English; Haimovitz had beaten Lucas Guzman of Argentina.

Haimovitz showed up for the final, ready to compete.

Soleimani, though, proved a no-show.

Officially, according to the internal Youth Games news service, Soleimani withdrew for injury, Iranian officials saying Soleimani had aggravated an old injury to his left leg.

"He already had an injury before coming to Singapore -- it happened when he was in Mexico for the world junior championships this year," said Mohammad Esmaeili Malekabadi, an Iranian team assistant.

"He was trying to compete in the Games, and he was pushing himself, trying to go for the final."

Does that pass the credibility test?

When, in 2004, at the Athens Olympics, Iranian judo competitor Arash Miresmaeli, a two-time world champ, refused to take to the mat for a first-round match against Ehud Vaks of Israel, Iranian officials later awarding Miresmaeli $120,000 -- the going rate there for a gold medal -- for what was called a "great act of self-sacrifice."

When, here Sunday in Singapore, Israeli IOC member Alex Gilady was the one awarding the medals in that particular event -- Gilady's selection by the IOC for this particular event made a month ago, everyone in Israeli sport knowing that a medal, if not gold, was a distinct possibility.

When, if Soleimani had gone on to fight, there was of course the risk he might lose -- in which case he would suffer the indignity not only of loss but of standing on the podium while the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, rang out.

So, as it turned out, the anthem sounded, with Haimovitz on the top of the podium. To his left, the American and Argentinian shared the third-place stand. The second-place stand -- it was empty.

So -- now what? What, if anything, is the IOC to do or say?

"We will be looking into it," IOC spokesman Mark Adams said.

Just a suggestion: A good place to start would be to see whether Soleimani was treated Sunday at any of this city-state's excellent hospitals.

Gilady said, "My heart goes out to the Iranian athlete who was denied by his own officials a very good chance to win the gold, and the opportunity to stand on the podium. This is cruel."