There is little more distressing news these days than the reports from Gaza and Israel. The bombs continue to drop, the blood continues to flow, and the end of this latest phase of this age-old conflict seems nowhere in sight.
Such events, understandably, tend to harden the positions of those on both sides. But while there is obviously no easy solution to this ongoing crisis, there are sometimes little things, stories from unexpected places, which provide a glimpse of what might exist if there were peace.
Some dismiss the world of sports as trivial, irrelevant, and even diversionary compared to the perennial wars in the Middle East. Sport, of course, does pale in importance to such issues. Sport, however, can also be a metaphor for life, and demonstrate that there can be normal, peaceful organized activity involving a diverse, and otherwise quarrelling, group of peoples.
While no one expects a sporting event to engender peace in the Middle East, the first ADCC Israeli Trials, which were held December 20, 2008, in the Israeli city of Holon, offered such a kernel of hope (https://adcombat.com/Article.asp?Article_ID=17219).
Here was a qualifying tournament held in Israel for an event, the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship, which is sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Combat Club, based in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The main organizer of the ADCC Israeli Trials was Haim Gozali, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Renzo Gracie, and an Israeli.
While I was not at this event, reports from it indicate that the competitors fought, some won, some lost, and the winners moved on to the next stage of the qualifying process – in other words, it was a normal tournament run following the highest norms of the sporting world.
After reading about this event, I wrote to Haim to get his views on the significance of the first ADCC Israeli Trials, especially in light of the resumption of a virtually full-scale war. He graciously sent me back an article by one of his students, Vitally Kraversky, who also competed at the event and won the -65.9kg division.
Who knows, when in whatever generation it might be that such wars exist only in history books, how important sporting events like the ADCC Israeli Trials will be seen? For those today, however, who only see endless conflict, perhaps such an event will inspire them to look beyond the present tragedies and plan for a peaceful and productive future.
Here is the article about the first ADCC Israeli Trials by Vitally Kraversky.
Abu Dhabi Combat Club is a name which attracts every grappling practitioner. This is the most professional and challenging competition, with the toughest selection for a participation.
In Israel though, despite of the rapid development of BJJ and submission wrestling, ADCC somehow became an ambivalent topic. For sure, everyone admired the level of the organization and the participants, but complex political relationships between Israel and Arab countries left Israel grappling community with a little hope to take part at the competition officially.
But there was one person, who helped to turn a dream to reality. Haim Gozali, black belt under Renzo Gracie, clearly believed that in order to advance the grappling level at his country, sportsmen should start competing at the highest level tournament, which ADCC apparently is. First he achieved a right to compete at ADCC 2005, and then for more than two years worked to get the organization to accept official Israeli Team for European Abu Dhabi trials in Sweden. After he has got the permission to form a team which would represent the blue-white flag, he had less than two months left to prepare. But Haim took the issue very seriously. First of all Israeli Abu Dhabi trials were promoted. In about a month a place for the competition was prepared and approximately one hundred of the best Israeli grapplers joined the competition enthusiastically.
Two weeks later a fresh formed team of seven Israeli competitors and Haim Gozali as a head of the delegation, landed in Stockholm airport. Three days earlier a conflict between Israel and Palestine has reached its crush point. Two of the team members did the final preparation and bag packing under the rocket bombing at the southern part of Israel. But still nobody gave up the participation. A main feeling was a mixture of excitement and anticipation. It was a feeling that something important is happening. And despite a lack of big wins at the European trials tournament, everybody felt that some great goal has been achieved. A message to the world has been sent. It said, that for a sport and a good will there are no borders, politics or religion differences.