An Open Letter to the Egyptian Olympic Committee

Mr. Hesham Mohamed Tawfeq Hatab, President
Mr. Alaa Gabr, Secretary General
Egyptian Olympic Committee
Elestade Elbahary Street
Nasr City, Bp 2055

Mr. Hesham Mohamed Tawfeq Hatab and Mr. Alaa Gabr,

I’m Israeli, I’m also a former coach, an athlete and importantly a father. I want to take the time to thank you and your organization for taking swift action to sanction your Judoka Islam El Shehaby for his unsportsmanlike behavior following his match with the Israeli Judoka Or Sasson. I have no doubt there are those in Egypt that will be very upset for your decision and also see merit in Mr. El Shehaby’s actions, thankfully you do not.

I’ve coached several sports from youth club teams to elite athletes on a top US university team. My proudest moment was representing Israel as the coach for the National Youth Baseball team during the European Championships. With great honor comes great responsibility. Make no mistake representing your country should be taken with the utmost seriousness. We taught our team of 11 and 12 year old children that how you represent your country is what you will be remembered by not the medal or trophy that you might win. Character and integrity, not where you placed, are the lessons of sport.

When we step into the field of play with athletics the whole world is watching. The entire proud nation of Egypt is watching, the entire nation of Israel is watching. Our children are watching. These Olympic athletes are role models and when they act poorly it reflects poorly not just on the athlete but on all of us. Our children deserve better.

As neighbors we have had our differences on many different levels. Although your actions today will not solve these or any of the challenges and problems both our peoples face and those in our region face they will be remembered. Today you sent a message, a strong message. Today you earned the respect of people all over the world. Today you earned the respect of the Israeli people, no small feat.

Today you earned the respect of myself and my family and for that our door is always open to you and your family.

Thank you,

Shalom Aleichem, a Salaam Aleichem, Peace be upon you.

About the Author
Zaq Harrison has worked in the private sector, in banking and international finance, for more than 20 years. He has published articles on the US Real Estate Market and Public Policy. Born and raised in rural America, Zaq was an accomplished athlete, and served as an IDF combat soldier in the armored corps during the first Lebanese War, Operation Peace for Galilee. He then worked in education, and even after transitioning to the private sector, has maintained a lifelong passion for education. Over the past 25 years, therefore, Zaq has devoted his spare time to developing educational programs and mentoring students in nonprofits such as Hadassah Young Judaea and BBYO. In 2011 Zaq wrote “They Are All Gone” for the HBO documentary “Sport in America: Our Defining Stories,” on the personal impact of the murder of the 11Israeli Olympians at the 1972 Munich games. In 2012, he created the educational program Olympic Choices, and was the driving force and an official speaker at official 40th commemoration memorial ceremonies for the Munich 11.
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