For the first time, Israeli athletes were able to compete in sports tournaments in the United Arab Emirates under the Israeli flag. Previously, tournament organizers in the UAE refused to identify Israel by name, display its flag, or play its anthem when Israeli athletes won gold medals. While an Israeli athlete who won a gold medal at the tournament in 2017 could only mouth the words to the Israeli national anthem, HaTikvah, while organizers insisted on playing a different song, this year HaTikvah played loud and clear, and it was moving to see Israel’s sports minister on the stage and crying in response to this historic first.
The UAE’s commitment to hosting a tournament that treats all athletes fairly and without discrimination on the basis of national origin is a brave signal in favor of fairness and openness. This is the first step toward building more inclusive relationships within the Middle East.
Despite a year that seemed, at times, riddled with hate, these bright spots prove that we are moving closer to our vision of a world where no one is the target of discrimination or threats, and all receive justice and fair treatment.