United With Israel recently met with Loris Afara, Israel’s top competitor in women’s karate, at the Stand With US International Women’s Conference. From the village of Almazraa, Afara is an Israeli Christian and has represented Israel more than 45 times at the European Karate Championships where she has taken home the bronze medal.
Located in Northern Israel, Almazraa has a 97 percent Muslim and 3 percent Christian population. Surrounded by Jewish kibbutzim and villages, Afara described it as a very open and tolerant village supporting peaceful coexistence between religions. Afara began learning Hebrew at age three and said that growing up, when she looked at other children, she did not see a religion but rather another human being. Although she is Christian, she has studied both Judaism and Islam in depth.
Afara began as one of two Israeli Arabs on Israel’s national karate team and the only Christian woman in this position. She proceeded to win four gold medals in the Maccabiah Games, in addition to winning third place in the European championship for karate. She was the first Israeli to win such an honor and her success has inspired other Israeli Arab women to practice karate.
Afara considers herself an Israeli Christian that speaks Arabic and does not view herself as Palestinian. She is very proud of her Israeli heritage and has a mixed group of friends, consisting of both Arabs and Jews. Arafa opposes Palestinian terrorism explaining that it is a threat to Israeli Arabs just as much as to the Jewish people and recalled the Maxim restaurant suicide bombing, where she lost fellow classmates, as an example. Afara told United With Israel that she is proud to represent Israel through karate and sings Hatikva alongside her fellow Israeli athletes. She views herself as a sports ambassador and believes that athletics can break down political barriers that usually block communication between peoples in the midst of conflicts.
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About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."The author's opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Jewish Press.
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