Moshe Ponte

'The story is to make it -- step by step'

'The story is to make it -- step by step'

MARRAKECH, Morocco — A couple weeks ago, it made headlines worldwide when the Israeli judo team was singled out at an International Judo Federation Grand Slam stop in Abu Dhabi.

The United Arab Emirates banned Israeli athletes from wearing their nation’s symbols, the blue and white colors and the Star of David, on their uniforms; the Israeli flag was not displayed; the Israeli national anthem was not to be played.

What drew comparatively little attention, meanwhile, were the gestures and photos, published on the IJF website, that wrapped up the tournament: Israeli under-100 kilo bronze medalist Peter Paltchik with the UAE Judo Federation president, His Excellency Mohammad Bin Thaloub Al Darei, and Aref Al-Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, the three of them arm in arm; and Israel Judo Association president Moshe Ponte, IJF president Marius Vizer, Al Darei and Naser Al-Tameemi, general secretary of the UAE Judo, Wrestling and Kickboxing Federation, all four hand-to-hand, as if they were breaking a huddle, U.S.-football style.

Along with the photos, there were also apologies — that a UAE athlete, after a loss, had not shaken hands with an Israeli on the tatami, as a judo mat is called.

And congratulations, too — to the Israelis for winning five medals.