Israel at the 2012 Olympic Games

The following programs are a special project of iMMERSE, a joint initiative of the iCenter and ISRAEL21c and will be implemented at Jewish summer camps, synagogues, youth groups, and schools across the United States. ISRAEL21c’s full coverage of the 2012 Olympic team can be found at





Opening Ceremony

Program Idea #1: Ayze hu gibor: Who is a Hero?

Aizeh hu gibor? Ha’oseh soneh ohavo. Who is a true hero? The one who turns an enemy into a friend. (Avot d’rabbi Natan, chapter 23)

Aizeh hu gibor? Ha’kovesh et yitzro. Who is a hero? One who conquers his or her impulses (Pirke Avot 4:1)


Discussion Questions:

  • What is the application of these texts for the Olympic games?
  • Can one truly turn an enemy into a friend?  Have you ever had this experience?


Program Idea #2: Through the eyes of Israeli Olympians: Who is a hero?

Photo credit: EPA

How do the quotes above apply to Olympic athletes?  What impulses do you think an athlete has to overcome in order to be an Olympian?

During the interviews, ISRAEL21c asked the Israeli Olympians who their heroes are.  Here a couple of their answers:

“I don’t have a sports hero.  Well maybe just one, Ben Ainslie, the sailor.  I’m kind of a groupie but I hate to admit it. [My heroes are] probably my parents and my grandma—people from my family members who educated me and gave me some values and made me the person I am today.”- Vered Buskila

“I don’t actually have a hero.  I don’t have someone who’s a hero.   I’m taking, you know, I can’t say examples…there are a lot of people and I’m just reading about them and they’re thinking right.  They’re not drowning in their own misery or handicap and just keep on with your life in a good way.”- Nati Gruber

Discussion Questions:

  • What does it mean to have/be a hero?
  • Who are the people you admire?  Do you consider them heroes?
  • What qualities does a hero possess?

Hebrew words:  In Hebrew, hero is gibor, heroine is giborah. Heroes are giborim, heroines are giborot.

Activity Ideas:

  1. Create a holiday for you hero.
  2. Debate whether sports figures are heroes.
  3. Create a hand-written “wordle” using qualities of a hero.  Bigger words are the more significant qualities and the smaller words are the less significant qualities.


Shahar Zubari

Program Idea #3: Shahar Zubari – Learning to Windsurf
“My father, first of all, he was the one who taught me how to windsurf.  And I think this windsurfing sport it’s really special because from one side you are in the sea quiet, peaceful.  But from the other end, the sea can be really rough and full of adrenaline and action.  So I think I like these two worlds.  From one side really quiet but from the other end, can be really rough and risky.”- Shahar Tzuberi

Discussion Questions:

  • What are your talents or hobbies?
  • Why do you enjoy them?
  • Who taught you the activities you are good at or you enjoy doing?
  • What can you teach others?

Activity Ideas:

  1. Students or campers pair up and teach someone else one of their talents (even to one of the teachers or counselors).
  2. Students or campers sign up to learn a talent from others.

(Examples: Learning to play guitar, shoot a basketball, draw, read Hebrew, make pottery, make a friendship bracelet, use the video camera, play a game, or learn a new cheer.)


Vered Buskila

Program #4: Values Tree
Introduction: Vered Buskila, sailing in the women’s two-person dinghy 470 at the London Games, is actually a lawyer by profession.   Her love for sailing brought her back to the Olympics this year, putting her career on hold.  She knows that she has other options for her life besides sailing, but winning a medal for Israel would mean the world to her.  It would also prove to herself that she made the right choice competing this year.
Making big decisions can often be very difficult, but everybody prioritizes their lives in some way or another.

Discussion Questions:  What are your main interests/commitments?  How do you prioritize them in your daily life? What are you most committed to?


  1. Create small slips of paper with different words/statements.  This may include: Family, friends, siblings, Judaism, education, sports, camp, religious school, youth group, Torah, television, video games, reading, Israel, exercise, food, music, volunteering, friendship, love, carpe diem, etc.  Leave some blank so that the participants can fill them in with their own words.
  2. Ask the participants to make a tree using the slips of paper.  Ask, what forms the foundation of your life?  What are your roots and how do you prioritize from the bottom to the top?
  3. After they are finished, ask: What was challenging about this activity?  What was easy to prioritize?
  4. Provide time for participants to share their trees and explain the things that are most important to them.


Program Idea #5: Kibbutz Galuyot: Ingathering of the Diaspora

Scavenger Hunt:

  1. Prepare copies of the Israeli Olympian biographies (as many copies as there will be groups participating in teams for the scavenger hunt).
  2. Divide the Olympians according to sport and bring their biography description to the camp or school location that most relates to the sport. (i.e. sailing & swimming: the pool or lake, sharp-shooting: archery field, running: sports field, tennis: tennis court or basketball court).
  3. Split the participants into teams.  Ask them to collect the biographies of every Olympian using a list of the Olympians and their sports as a clue.  Staff can prepare ahead of time to take on the role of various Israeli Olympic athletes at each station using the bibliography and ISRAEL21c video content.
  4. Using a map of the world or a drawing of the map, ask the students or campers to place the biographies of the Olympian on their birthplace and attach a string from their birthplace to London.

Discussion Questions:

  • What parts of the world are the Israeli Olympians from originally?
  • What is significant about the fact that Olympians come together from different countries and continents to represent Israel during the Olympic games?
  • For those who were not born in Israel, why do you think they chose to compete for Israel rather than another country?


Program #6: Etgarim – Overcoming Challenges
Expore the mission of Etgarim and compare it to other nonprofits in Israel. This organization helped Nati Gruber recover from a road accident and train to become a hand-bicyclist in the Paralympic games.  The aim of Etgarim is to help handicapped people develop their skills in sports and outdoor activities.


Program #7: Olympics (Maccabiah)

Before Maccabiah begins, participants will sign up for the activity/sport they are interested in competing in.  The video teacher or specialist and students will interview the “Olympic athletes” throughout the day and compile a video about the competition, including why they chose their activity/sport, what winning would mean to them, and how proud they are to represent their team.  This is another way to get participants excited about Maccabiah and show their spirit on camera.



Israel’s participation in the Olympics began formally in 1952 and has continued through today.  Israel did support the U.S. boycott in 1980.

For a complete list of Israel’s medal count, list of medalist and sports in which Israel generally participates visit  For this year’s Olympics, visit

Israel also has a long and successful history in the Paralympic games having even hosted in 1968.  In contrast to the small number of medals won by Israel to date in the general Olympic games, Israel has been quite successful in the Paralympics.

The Jewish Life Education Centre website contains several programs relating to Israel and the Olympics:


Israeli Athletes to Compete in the Olympics

For more information:


1. Ariel (Arik) Zeevi

Born in Bnei Brak in 1977, Arik Zeevi is widely recognized as the country’s most prominent judoka. A dan 5 black belt, he won his first national competition in judo in the adult class at the age of 14, becoming the country’s youngest champion ever. He went on to win a bronze medal in the 2004 Olympics in the Judo 100kg class. In 2005 he was voted the 50th greatest Israeli of all time by Israeli news website, Ynet. Earlier this year, Zeevi unexpectedly won the European Championships for judo, becoming – at 35 – the oldest European champion. This will be Zeevi’s fourth and final Olympics. He is currently rated number seven in the world.

2.  Artyom Arshansky

At nearly 21 years old, judoka Artyom (also spelled “Artiom” or “Artem”) Arshansky took the gold in both the under-17 European Cup and Continental Championships. He won a bronze medal in the senior European Championships in 2012 and two silver and three bronze medals at World Cup events in Lisbon, Madrid and Prague. Throughout this year, he’s won 15 of 22 matches.

3. Golan Pollack

The 21-year-old judoka finished fifth in the men’s tournament of the Paris Grand Slam in February, but still met Israeli standards to win a late slot to the Israel Olympic delegation. Competing in the 66-kilogram category, he’s considered one of the country’s promising young martial artists.

4. Ioseb (“Soso”) Palelashvili

Competing in the 73-kilogram category, Palelashvili immigrated to Israel from Georgia four years ago.  In April, he won the bronze at the European Judo Championship and captured an Olympic spot.

5. Alice Schlesinger

Hopes for a medal are riding high on Israeli judoka Alice Schlesinger. The 24-year-old was born in Herzliya and has been winning medals since she was 17. In May this year, Schlesinger took the gold in her category at the Moscow Judo Grand Slam. Schlesinger placed 13th in the 2008 Olympics in her weight category, and has been steadily gaining ground since then. In August 2011, she was ranked sixth in the world in her weight class.


6. Alex Shatilov

Widely considered the best prospect for a medal in gymnastics, 25-year-old Alex Shatilov specializes in the floor exercise, for which he has won several medals at world and European championships. Shatilov, who is unusually tall for a gymnast measuring 6ft, was born in Uzbekistan and began his gymnastics training there at age five. He immigrated to Israel in 2002. In 2008, Shatilov represented Israel in the Summer Olympics where he qualified for the final. In 2010 he suffered a serious knee injury, but recovered to take bronze and silver medals at the World Championships in 2011. In May, Shatilov won the bronze medal at the European Championships.

7. Moran Bozovski

At 20 years old, Moran Bozovski is the team captain of the Israeli rhythmic (also called “artistic”) gymnastics team. Her specialties are balls, ribbons and ropes. Bozovski first caught the attention of the Israeli public when she became the national junior champion in 2007.

8. Marina Schultz

A rhythmic gymnast from Ashkelon, 17-year-old Marina Schultz took fourth place in the 2010 World Championships in Russia, won the bronze medal for hoops and ribbons in the 2011 world championships in France and took home the silver from the Olympic test event in London last January.

9. Noa Palchi

Born in 1994, rhythmic gymnast Noa Palchi took fifth place at Bern in the 2010 European Championships and won a bronze medal in the 2011 World Championships in Montpellier.

10. Victoria (“Vicka”) Koshel

Victoria Koshel won first place in the rope competition at the Artistic Gymnastics Championships held in Israel in 2010, when she was 19. She won a bronze medal in the final combined exercise at the World Championships in Montpellier in 2011, and a silver from the January Olympic test event in London.

11. Neta Rivkin

The first Israeli ever to win a medal at an international rhythmic gymnastics competition, 21-year-old Neta Rivkin consistently places in the top three at European and world championships, and competed at the 2008 Beijing Games. Her strongest skill is the hoop routine, which incorporates jumps, leaps and pivots, rotations, throws and catches, swings, circles and figure eights.

12. Valeria Maksiota

Artistic gymnast Valeria Maksiota, 24, moved to Israel from Ukraine on her own five years ago. In 2011, she won 27 medals in international competitions, 13 of them gold medals. Her performance at the European Championships in Brussels in May assured her of a spot on the Israeli delegation to the 2012 Games, though she’d torn her Achilles tendon at London test finals in January.

13. Felix Aronovich 

Gymnast Felix Aronovich, 24, grew up in Kiryat Bialik, training in Tel Aviv. He attended college at Penn State in the United States, where he won several titles and recorded Penn State’s highest scores in the pommel horse, parallel bars and all-around. He excels in floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault and parallel bars. Aronovich is one of three Israeli gymnasts who have qualified for London, based on his performance at the Olympic test event in London in January and in the following month’s European championships in Montpellier, France.

14. Polyana Zakolzani

15. Eliora Zolokovski


16. Lee Korzits

Lee Korzits, 28, won Israel’s sole 2012 Olympic windsurfing slot by taking first place in four qualifying international races that put her in the No. 1 spot worldwide. She first competed in the 2004 Athens Games after becoming the world’s youngest wind-surfing champ in 2003. All eyes are on Korzits to see if she will follow in the footsteps of Gal Fridman, the Israeli windsurfing gold medalist in 2004.

17. Shahar Zubari

Shahar Zubari has been touted as one of Israel’s best hopes for the London 2012 Olympic Games. The 25-year-old windsurfer won Israel’s only medal (bronze) at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He was born in the city of Eilat, on the Red Sea coastline, and started windsurfing at the age of seven. Zubari says his love for the sea keeps him in the sport, and his love for Israel powers him to do his best.


18. Eran Sela

Sailors Eran Sela and Gidi Kliger will represent Israel in the men’s two-person dinghy 470 at the London Games. Sela is a two-time Israeli national champion and a three-time runner-up. The 27-year-old Sela was born in the city of Hadera but moved as a teenager to Kibbutz Sdot Yam to train at the sailing club there. He and Kliger won silver at the Sailing World Cup earlier this year in Palma de Majorca and took home bronze at the European Championships in 2011.

19. Gideon Kliger

Racing since the age of eight, this will be the third time Gideon Kliger will be steering a course for sailing gold at the Olympics. One of Israel’s top skippers on the 470 dinghy, Kliger has won a number of prestigious sailing prizes and medals over the last 15 years. He first made headway in the sport when he and partner Udi Gal won the European Youth Championships in 1998. Other medals include bronze at the Sailing 470 World Championship for three straight years in a row in Men’s 470-Class Two-Person Dinghy — from 2006 to 2008. He placed fifth in 2002 at the World Championship, and placed fourth and fifth the following years. At the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, Kliger and his partner placed 14th and 15th. He continues to win medals at top ranking sailing competitions internationally as he races for Olympic gold.

20. Nufar Edelman

Born on the windy Mediterranean coastal town of Rosh HaNikra near the Lebanese border, Nufar Edelman, 30, will compete this year in the Laser Radial class. She qualified for the Olympics at the ISAF Sailing World Championships at Perth, Western Australia. She has already competed in the Olympics, in 2008, where she placed 16th in a one-person dinghy. In the past she has won fourth position in the 2004 Laser Radial World Championships and seventh from 97 competitors in the 2007 Laser Radial World Championships in Portugal. It was this 2007 race that made her the first Israeli woman to meet the criteria for the Olympics in the Laser Radial.

21. Gil Cohen

One of Israel’s most promising young sailors, Gil Cohen is known for her hard work and passion for success. In the London 2012 Olympics, she will be sailing a women’s two-person dinghy 470 with partner Vered Buskila. With most of her time spent at sea, Cohen’s hard work has paid off. This 2012 she has set her course for sailing gold.

22. Vered Buskila

A lawyer by training, Vered Buskila says her love for the sea is the reason she’s put her legal career on hold in favor of competing in the women’s two-person dinghy 470 at the London Games. Buskila will partner with Gil Cohen at the upcoming Olympics. Born in Bat Yam, a city on the Mediterranean coastline, she took to sailing at a young age. In 1998, at the age of 15, Buskila and her partner won the women’s world 420 yachting championship in the Gulf of Corinth in Greece. This will be her third Olympic showing – in 2004 at the Athens Games she placed 18th in Women’s 470 Class Two-Person Dinghy and in 2008 in Beijing she came in fourth.


23. Nimrod Shapira Bar-On

Born in 1989 in Jerusalem, Nimrod Shapira Bar-On is a former Arizona Wildcat swimmer, who decided to pass on this season’s NCAA swim meets to focus on preparing for the Olympics. This will be the second time around for his specialty, the 100 and 200 meter freestyle swims. In 2008 in China, Shapira Bar-On set a national record for Israel where he swam 49.10, coming in at spot 26, and in the 200-meter swim he came in at spot 15 in the first heat with a time of 1:48:16. During the 2008 Olympics he became the only Israeli swimmer to ever make it to the semi-finals at any Olympics games. It was a chance knee accident at age 11 that forced Shapira Bar-On to go from competitive basketball playing to swimming.

24. Amit Ivri

Amit Ivri made a splash for Israel when she became the first Israeli woman to place and win a medal for Israel at the European Championships in Hungary this year. Her 100-meter butterfly bronze medal swim was a personal victory at 58.64 seconds and qualified her for the Olympics. The 23-year-old swimmer from Netanya will be one of six Israeli swimmers among the 36 Israeli athletes who will be heading to London. She has broken swimming records in Israel and has won silver and gold medals in Israeli championships. Her great-grandmother penned a number of successful Israeli classics in children’s literature. An amateur chef, she has admitted that her true dream is to be a successful cook one day.

25. Jonathan Koplev

Jonathan Koplev is heading to the Olympics after a huge win at the European Swimming Championships in May where he became the first Israeli to hold the European championship title after setting a new personal best of 24.73 seconds in the men’s 50-meter backstroke and winning the gold medal. Koplev was born and grew up in Haifa. The 20-year-old competes in butterfly and backstroke. He is a member of Israel’s national swim team.

26. Yakov-Yan Toumarkin

Yakov-Yan Toumarkin is an Israeli swimmer on the rise. Most recently, the 20-year-old set a new Israeli long course 200-meter backstroke swimming record (1:58.21) at the 2011 World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai last July. He was born in Moscow, moved to Israel when he was just one year old, and grew up in the city of Ashdod. As a child, Toumarkin participated in judo, basketball, and swimming. A head injury from judo helped him concentrate his skills on swimming. Toumarkin’s trophies include two bronze medals at the 2012 European Championships, gold at the European Youth Swimming Championships, and Israeli record holder. 

27. Imri Ganiel

Imri Ganiel grew up in the town of Omer, smack dab in the middle of the desert.  He first jumped into pool waters at the age of eight and, as he says, “just kept on going.” Taking after his father – a former Israeli swimming champion – Ganiel holds the national record in the 100-meter breastroke. Ganiel missed out on the crierion for the London Games, but the Olympic Committee chose to send him nonetheless as an up-and-coming athlete.

28. Gal Nevo

Israeli swimmer, Gal Nevo, is the national champion in the 200m and 400m individual medley (IM) as well the 200m butterfly. Born and raised on Kibbutz Hamadia in the Bet She’an Valley, the 25-year-old was groomed by the Sport-Gifted Center at Wingate Institute. Nevo trains at Georgia Tech in the US, where he majors in economics. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he advanced to the semifinals of the 200-IM and placed 13th with a time of 2:00.43. He also swam the 400-IM and clocked in at 4:14.03 or 11th overall.

Synchronized Swimming

29. Anastasia Gloushkov

With her mother as her coach, synchronized swimmer Anastasia Gloushkov, 26, has qualified for the Olympics three times. She’s known since last July that she’d go to London, following her stellar performance with partner Inna Yoffe at the 14th FINA World Championships in Shanghai. The newlywed and college student is planning to pursue a career out of the water following the 2012 Games.

30. Inna Yoffe 

Gloushkov’s synchronized swimming partner, 24, was handpicked by Gloushkov’s coach/mother as an aquatic twin for her daughter. Winning the 2003 world championship in Barcelona provided their ticket to Athens in 2004, and they returned for the Beijing Games in 2008. Yoffe sees London as her final competition before starting university studies in biology.


31. Shahar Pe’er

Shahar Pe’er was born in Jerusalem in 1987, and won her first title at the age of 12. In 2001, she took first place in the Nike Junior Tour International Masters tennis tournament and became the youngest Israeli tennis player ever to win the Israeli women’s tennis championship. She won her best Grand Slam singles result when she reached the quarter-finals at the 2007 Australian Open, and the 2007 US Open.  She also reached the Women’s doubles final at the 2008 Australian Open. Pe’er has won five WTA singles titles, and three WTA doubles titles.

32. Andy Ram

Andy Ram was born in Montevideo in Uruguay in 1980, moved to Israel with his Israeli soccer player father, Amiram, at the age of five, and began playing tennis shortly afterwards. He became a professional tennis player at the age of 16.  He made his reputation in Wimbledon in 2003 when he and Jonathan Erlich, his main doubles partner, became the first Israelis to advance to a Wimbledon final.  They reached the semi-finals in men’s doubles and the final in mixed doubles. Together, they have won dozens of tournaments and played in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. In 2006, Ram became the first Israeli tennis player to win a Grand Slam event in mixed doubles at the Wimbledon Championships with a Russian partner, Vera Zvonareva.
33. Jonathan Erlich

Thirty-five-year-old Jonathan Erlich was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina but moved to Haifa in Israel when he was a year old. He first started playing tennis when he was three and played his first tournament at seven. He trained at the Wingate Institute where he met Andy Ram, his future doubles partner.  Together they have won over 15 tournaments and represented Israel at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.  In July of 2009, he and Ram were rated number five in the world for doubles.


34. Sergey Richter

The 23-year-old Ra’anana resident is among the top sharpshooters in the world and one of Israel’s best hopes for a medal in London.  He will be competing in the 50-meter rifle three positions, the 50-meter rifle prone and the 10-meter air rifle event, in which he shares the junior world record. Richter won the Israeli air rifle championship nine times, and in the ISSF World Cup he won the gold medal in 2009 and the silver in 2011 and 2012.


35. Misha Zilberman

Misha Zilberman is the first Israeli badminton player to represent Israel at the Olympic Games in London 2012. Born in Moscow, Russia in 1989, he came to Israel with his parents in 1991. Both his parents were athletes. His mother played professional badminton and his father was her coach. Misha began competing in badminton tournaments at the age of 10 and joined the IDF for three years at the age of 18 under the special athletes program. He is ranked number 77 in the world.


36. Zohar Zemiro

Israeli marathon runner Zohar Zemiro ran the Amsterdam Marathon earlier this year in 2:14.28 – a personal record time and enough to qualify him for the upcoming Olympic Games. Zemiro was born in Ethiopia and immigrated to Israel at the age of 10. At 35, he is one of the country’s veteran runners. He was national champion in marathon running in 2010 and 2012, national champion in hill running in 2008, and a three-time running champion at the Maccabiah Games. He was named Athlete of the Year in 2011 by the Israel Athletics Association.

Pole Vault

37. Jillian Schwartz

She could have been competing for America, but Jillian Schwartz decided on Team Israel after immigrating to Israel in 2010. Today she says she will be proud to walk under the Israeli flag at the London Olympics, and did so at the opening games, although most of her time is spent training in America. Born in 1979 in the United States, Schwartz is a champion pole-vaulter who previously jumped at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens on the United States team. She has competed at four World Championships in Athletics, while her best placing to date remains at spot four at the IAAF 2004 World Indoor Championships.  In Israel, she has set records both for indoor and outdoor pole vaults, and aspires to jump to gold at the upcoming Olympics in London. Her personal best remains at 4.72 meters, set in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 2008.


38. Donald Sanford

The final entry onto Israel’s 2012 Olympic list, Los Angeles-born sprinter Donald Sanford previously competed for Arizona State University. He obtained Israeli citizenship only recently, after marrying Israeli basketball player Danielle Dekel in 2008. Sanford placed fourth in the 400-meter dash at the 2012 European Championships — the first Israeli finalist in a major international track and field competition since Israel Prize winner Esther Roth-Shahamorov won three gold medals in the 1974 Asian Championships.





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