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July 23, 2014 / 25 Tammuz, 5774
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Israeli Media ‘Crucifying’ Windsurfer who Said ‘Shma Israel’ and Lost


Lee Korzits

Lee Korzits

Israeli Olympic windsurfer Lee Korzits was her country’s last hope in the London games, in which not one member of the team had managed to earn a medal. Korzits had won two straight World Championships. Indeed, she stayed in the top three spots of the windsurfing event in Weymouth for the first seven days, only to slip in the end to the sixth-place overall finish in the women’s competition at London 2012 on Tuesday.

On Sunday, Korzits told Israeli reporters that she doesn’t feel the pressure, and that unlike her rival in the competition, “I enjoy the pressure and I’m not sure they do so much.”

Then, referring to the possibility that she could be the second Israeli woman athlete to bring home an Olympic medal, Korzits confessed: The truth is I really want it. Keep your fingers crossed for me in Israel (the Hebrew term is more like ‘hold your fingers for me,’ same meaning), go to shul, say Shma Israel, pray for me Maariv, Shachrit, whatever it takes.”

She told another Israeli reporter about her plans (Ynet has since taken down the page, but the website BeHadrei Haredim kept the text): “I get on the surfboard, say ‘Shma Israel, Hashem Elokeino Hashem Echad’ and I go to war.”

Had she won the medal, the home press probably would have forgiven Korzits those unusual expressions of religious fervor. But she lost, and so, on top of her heartbreak at having failed to live up to her own expectations, she became a popular target for any hack with an anti-religious agenda.

Amir Peleg at Ynet was plain mean: “Lee said that on the day before the competition she was saying Tehilim and asked the public in Israel to pray for her. I don’t know if while she was praying, her opponents weren’t watching tapes or working out in the gym. What’s certain is that the prayer strategy did not prove itself. Some count on Tehilim against incoming rockets (certainly not the inventors of Iron Dome), but against gifted windsurfers it absolutely fails, even if the others are goyim… Korzits counted too much both on the wind (which was low on Tuesday) and on spirituality (Ruach v’Ruchniut).”

And former Meretz MK Yossi Sarid was even meaner in his Haaretz column: “My heart foretold bad omens when we found out about the need for Si’ata d’Shmaya (Divine help): normally, one must say Tehilim and call out ‘Shma Israel’ before a final chance after which there are no more chances. That’s when we understood where the wind was blowing, when it suddenly changed directions and became a holy spirit (same play on wind and spirit as before – easy pickin’ when you gang up on a windsurfer…).”

And Sarid concluded: “This is what happens when we have nothing left to count on except on our Father in Heaven, when we’re out of options down in the water… And those chances are further reduced when poor Lee must carry on her surfboard and entire nation.”

Finally, Uriel Daskal, sports editor for the Kalkalist finance magazine, told IDF radio: “The state of Israel is sick, both emotionally and physically. The state prefers to invest in kolels and Torah studies (than in sports). In the end it hurts all of us.”

In April 2009, while surfing in Hawaii, Lee Korzits was severely injured after being hit by another surfer. The surfboard rammed into her back, breaking two ribs. At first the Doctors thought the damage to her spine was irreversible, and told her they doubted she would be able to compete professionally. But in Israel Lee underwent rehabilitation and made a full recovery. She returned to sailing in 2010, claiming that the injury had motivated her to do what she loves most. In the summer of 2011, she won a silver medal at the European Championship, her first medal in a major competition since her world title in 2003. Her success continued at the 2011 ISAF Sailing World Championships, winning her second world title. By winning the world title she made history once again, becoming the first Israeli, male or female, to win two world titles at any sport. A few months later she added her third world title at the 2012 RS:X World Championships.

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.


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11 Responses to “Israeli Media ‘Crucifying’ Windsurfer who Said ‘Shma Israel’ and Lost”

  1. Les Legato says:

    Yossi Sarid, who is he praying to these day, marx or mohammed? Or both?

  2. OK Maybe I am missing something, but I do not understand why the girl is criticized for asking for prayer. In my opinion we should desire divine help everyday in our lives and asking for it is an act of humbleness. It shows G-d that we need His help in our lives. Yeah the prayers were not answered the way it was wanted, but that just means that it wasn't G-d's will for her to win this time around. Her losing should not be seen as a slam against her faith or Israel.

  3. Lee, indeed "Shma Israel, Hashem Elokeino Hashem Echad’ and WE go to war, any kind of war that is presented to us, Jews.” YOu are an inspiration and to be commended and I wish your detractors are finally dumped into the trash bin of historyas they are renegade, UnJews.

  4. So this for the Israeli press they are as predictable!

  5. I'll say it as well…Shma Yisrael!

  6. Cathy Sherman says:

    Yes, Lee overcame injury to compete again and is therefore an inspiration. Why do journalists feel the need to judge? I think the sh'ma should be said whenever a person wants to bless and acknowledge the sovereignty of Hashem, on any occasion. Winning isn't always the only way to fulfill His will; being able to bless Him in the disappointments is more powerful.

  7. Martha Miriam says:

    Shma Yisrael HaShem Elocheynu, HaShem Echad.

  8. Peleg, Sarid, and Daskal wouldn't ask for Divine help even if they were in real trouble. They would call on Zeus, Ashtarte, or Thomas Friedmann.

  9. Kol ha kovod to Lee Korzits for her valiant efforts. She will overcome this loss and reach even greater heights in the future.
    Shame on Yossi Sarid, a failed leftist politician, who has the gall to take Korzits to task for trying her best.
    Amir Peleg is a twit, who sits at a computer and derides people who actually do something. There are those who do, and those who take pleasure in tearing down and trying to destroy people who actually accomplish things. He's just an idiot.
    To Uriel Daskell, another twit of zero accomplishment; try building rather than destroying.
    Unfortunately, a majority of journalists in Israel, and sports journalists in particular, come across as almost totally negative, These are most often, people of no accomplishments of their own, who spend their time seeking sensations, rather than writing about anything in a positive way.

  10. Liad Bar-el says:

    Kol HaKavod to Lee Korzits for accepting the loss with thanks to HaShem for this is just as big of an accomplishment in life as winning the race. From suffering a severe back injury to win three world championships is a miracle.

  11. Margarita Isenstein says:

    I can only add that I completely agree with Lionel Gaffen.

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