The Olympics and Israel-More Than Just Sports
The Olympics and Israel-More Than Just Sports
While everyone has been busy watching an exciting Olympic games, Israel continues to reel from the politics of the event. Though the Olympics is supposed to be a politically neutral event, bringing together athletes from around the world and giving them equal respect, to many Israelis it seems that this is true for all athletes except their own.
For months before the Olympics began, there was a campaign to commemorate the eleven Israeli Olympic athletes murdered in the 1972 Munich Olympic Games by Palestinian terrorists. As this Olympics would take place exactly 40 years after the terrorist attack, it seemed a fitting time to give honor to the memory of the dead athletes. Jewish and Israeli groups were requesting a minute of silence to be held for the victims during the opening ceremony. However, even after meeting with the widows of several victims, International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge stated very clearly that it just was not going to happen and that there was no time for a moment of silence. When one of the widows asked if this was because the athletes had been Israeli, the IOC President reportedly refused to answer.
To add to Israelis’ frustration, it turned out that the Opening Ceremony would feature an elaborate musical memorial to the July 2005 victims of the London subway attack, as well as a portion in dedication to victims of terror in general. However, no simple moment of silence or mention of the murder of the Israeli Olympians in Munich would be made. Interestingly, during the Olympic Opening Ceremony, NBC chose to cut away from the broadcast of the memorial to the July 2005 victims and turn to an interview with Michael Phelps. Later, when the Israeli team marched in, NBC’s Bob Costas announced and held an on-air moment of silence for the Munich attack victims, surprising even the rest of the NBC team. However, overall, the world chose to look the other way and play to political interests rather than give simple recognition to the murdered Israeli athletes, causing many Israelis to feel that the world sees Israeli blood as cheaper in some way.
Furthermore, during the same time that it became clear there would be no commemoration given to the Munich attack victims, the BBC also added insult to injury by posting the capital of Palestine as East Jerusalem while posting no capital for Israel on a website devoted to the Olympics. Even posting “West Jerusalem” as the capital of Israel would have gone over far better and seemed more consistent than posting no capital at all for Israel. This immediately resulted in strong reactions, including a written complaint by Israeli government spokesperson Mark Regev. The BBC then fixed the problem by explaining that Jerusalem serves as Israel’s “seat of government” while “most foreign embassies are in Tel Aviv.” They also revamped the Palestine section, stating: “Intended seat of government: East Jerusalem. Ramallah serves as administrative capital.”
To make matters worse, the picture chosen to represent Israel showed an IDF soldier yelling, while Syria was made to look like a perfectly idyllic location with three young girls smiling. The caption under the Israeli photo read, “Israelis and Palestinians have been at loggerheads for decades.” The Syrian photo’s caption read, “The overwhelming majority of Syrians are Muslim.” Later, the photo for Israel was replaced with a more scenic photo of classic Tel Aviv architecture.
Such double standards in the world’s attitudes towards Israel are not new. The constant rockets on Southern Israel are often given only a passing shrug by the UN and any reaction by Israel is then condemned. Even since the start of the Olympics, at least seven rockets have fallen in Southern Israel, which the international community does not seem overly concerned with. Scripture speaks of the world eventually turning against Israel and of Jerusalem becoming an “immovable stone” on which the nations will injure themselves in their attempts at moving her (Zechariah 12:1-3). Though it does not specify which nations or when, we can see evidence of the world beginning to be led down this path already.
This does not mean that Israel is completely just. Many people try to rationalize their hatred towards Israel by the fact that it is an “unjust” state. First of all, most other Western states are also unjust and are doing far worse things with far less scrutiny than in Israel. Secondly, and most importantly, God even speaks of Israel’s restoration being for His name’s sake and being done in spite of Israel’s injustice and uncleanness in Ezekiel 36:22-32. He actually uses very harsh and uncomfortable language in this passage, saying that this will be done in spite of the fact that Israel had “profaned” His name to the nations and in order for the nations to see Him as Holy through Israel. He even says to Israel, “You will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices.” Does this sound like God is saying that He will only restore a good and deserving people? I think not! Also, He is not doing it because of some sort of favoritism towards Israel, but rather to make His name known to not just the Jews, but to the world, in this final miracle of restoring a hated people group. However, because He has put His name on Israel, God speaks of harsh judgment for those who have chosen to be Israel’s outright enemies or who have chosen to adhere to the all too common double standard towards Israel and the Jewish people (Zechariah 12:1-3, Joel 3, Genesis 12:3). It seems such anti-Semitism has occurred in different forms throughout the generations and in this generation is mostly seen in the absolute hypocrisy often shown towards Israel. In the end, the nations will be accountable before God for cursing the Jewish people and holding them to an impossible standard that could never be fulfilled by any nation, while the Jews will also be held accountable for not being a light that drew the nations to God and will have to go through some heavy repentance upon restoration. However, the nations would be wise to begin their own self-examination before incessantly looking at ways to condemn the little state of Israel and then, perhaps, leave it up to God to stir Israel to do the same.
Please pray that:
- Israel would stop looking to the nations for approval and would turn to their Maker, first and foremost
- Increasing numbers of people in the nations would begin to see the hypocrisy of actions towards Israel and recognize the spirit behind them and that they would then stand against such things.
- God would continue to comfort the families of the Olympic athletes lost in 197.
- Ultimately God would restore Israel to Him and then bring “life from the dead” to the world and to the worldwide Body of Messiah (Romans 11:12-15)
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