web analytics
September 29, 2016 / 26 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘boxing’

Israel’s Sabbath-Observant Woman in the Ring

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

How many people know that Israel is being represented at world muaythai boxing competitions by an observant Jewish young woman who gets into the ring as a professional fighter on a regular basis?

Right.

Well, meet Nili Bock, who competed this weekend against Russia at the 17th IFMA World Championship in Sweden.

Block competed in the 60 kg division, coached by Benny Cogan. Perhaps one could say that like the former Muhammad Ali, she “floats like a butterfly, but stings like a bee.” At least, when she’s in the ring.

Muay Thai is called the “Art of Eight Limbs” or the “Science of Eight Limbs” because it uses punches, kicks, elbows and knee strikes, thus using eight “points of contact.” Clinches, choke holds and “hugs” are not okay and if you notice in the above footage, the referee (who is female) moves in to put a stop to it. Often. Sometimes she too gets a whack in the (head, arm, side, etc – take your pick) in the process. But the ref usually knows how to block those blows. Like her male counterparts, she’s been trained.

Muaythai boxing differs from other types of fighting, such as boxing with fists — “two points” — and hands and feet fighting, “four points,” that are allowed in other more regulated combat sports because it allows one to use the entire range of one’s limbs.

But how on earth would an observant Jewish girl growing up in Israel connect with such a sport?

Nili Block immigrated to Israel at the age of two years old with her family, like many Jewish children. The change came whe at age 10 she joined her mother in Thai boxing classes. It’s not clear what prompted her mother to sign up for the classes, nor what prompted her to bring her daughter along for the ride, although it is entirely possible that the strong physical exercise and good muscle tone prompted in the classes may have been at least one of the factors. Self-defense in the face of an environment in which terrorism is a daily reality could easily have been another.

By age 18, Nili Block had won the KickBbox World Cup in Hungary, a European Championship title, and a gold medal at the World KickBoxing Championship in Bangkok.

And Block continues to observe the Sabbath and kosher laws even while on her boxing tours.

One of the most popular matches last week in the competition leading up to the Israel-Russia semi-final this weekend was the competition between Nili Block and Jacqueline De Beer from South Africa, which was a qualifier for the 2017 World Games in Poland.

“Nili was full of determination and from the beginning of the match she demonstrated that she will use her full potential to achieve her dream to get to Wroclaw as a part of the IWGA World Games,” noted the IFMA World Muaythai Championship.

The competition — as has been the entire semi-final — was featured on the Dubai Martial Arts Academy website. Nili Block’s name and the nation she represents, is there too, showing just how much the world has changed.

Hana Levi Julian

Are the Ultra Orthodox Incapable of Seeing God Fearing in National Religious Jews?

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Last Friday, Cross Currents published an essay by Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein that I consider to be of seminal importance. It is illustrative of one of the biggest problems impeding the future of Judaism. It involves the way the Charedi world is educated and the reaction of at least one of their rabbinic leaders to it. It is almost as if he had an epiphany.

The article itself involves a Kiddush HaShem that was done by Akiva Finkelstein, an 18-year old Dati Leumi honors student in Israel, and in and of itself is not anything we haven’t seen before. From Cross Currents:

An honor student in a dati Leumi school, he trained for eight years, and became Israel’s welterweight champion, and representative at an international competition in Armenia. Scheduled to fight motza’ei Shabbos, a change in the rules demanded that he be weighed in on Shabbos itself. His father flew in to help argue the case for him, and convinced the powers that be that Akiva could not get on the scale, but it would be OK if the officials lifted him on to the scale. At the appointed hour, the overall boss balked at this in a monumental act of small-mindedness, and told Akiva that he would either step on the scale himself or be disqualified. The secular Israeli coach urged him to do it. Akiva refused; in a single instant, he sacrificed eight years of training.

It was indeed a tremendous sacrifice and a true Kiddush HaShem. Unfortunately, the story does not end there. Rabbi Adlerstein goes on to tell how an unnamed Torah personality contacted him about the reaction by some members of his own Charedi community. He was extremely upset by it. What upset him? Again – from Cross Currents:

These comments gave Akiva no credit for the decision, but denigrated the eight years of training. Think of all the Torah he could have learned in the time he spent outside the Bais Medrash! Akiva was a loser, and so were his parents.

If I were to say that this reaction sickened me and ask what is becoming of the Yeshiva world – I would be called a Charedi basher. That is in fact how I have reacted many times to this kind of thinking.

But it was not me reacting to it this time. That was precisely the reaction this Torah personality had. In fact if one goes on to read the rest of Rabbi Adlerstein’s description of that personality’s reaction it could have easily have been me saying it. Bottom line is that he asked Rabbi Adlerstein to write about it.

That is the silver lining of hope for change in Charedi education.

It was very revealing that what many if us have known for years about the attitude of some on the right, is apparently proven to be a fact. It is also gratifying to know that a Torah personality is now aware of it and is pained by it.

I have written extensively in the past about correcting this erroneous Hashkafa that Charedi students have somehow incorporated into their thinking. At least there are now Charedi leaders that see this too. And saying so. At least anonymously. But the fact that this leader refuses to both be identified or personally address the problem in his own words and instead asks that a surrogate do it for him is part of the problem too.

I can attempt a guess at who it might have been. I know two members of the Agudah Moetzes personally and one by reputation and all three could have had this reaction. But it could have been anyone – including those who are not on the Agudah Moetzes.

I’m glad that there are Charedi leaders on the same page with me on this. But the fact that they refuse to make their views public and put the power and prestige of their own names behind it is one reason the problem will no doubt be perpetuated. This silver lining therefore contains a cloud.

What will it take to make this Charedi Rabbinic leader come out of the closet on this? I would be willing to bet that he is not the only one among his peers that feels that way. Being pained is not enough. Even making it known in an anonymous way is not enough. If the pendulum is to swing back sooner rather than later on this it’s going to take a lot more than expressing pain anonymously.

I don’t know why he refused to be identified. My hope is that he reads my comments or others like it and reconsiders. It is only then that a community that views the concept of Daas Torah as embodied by their Gedolim as defacto infallible that things have any chance of changing.

A word about criticizing Charedi rabbinic leaders.

There are some people that will see this post as a jumping off point for bashing members of the Agudah Moetzes and other Charedi rabbinic leaders. That would be terribly wrong in my view. I know there is a lot of anger out there about the reactions of the right about issues affecting the Jewish people. Good and well-intentioned people are perplexed by it.

But just as there are reasons that good and sincere people are upset, does not make those they are upset at bad people, God forbid. Charedi rabbinic leaders like those on the Agudah Moetzes are sincere too. They too have integrity. I firmly believe that they are as truthful and devout as their reputations indicate. They firmly believe that everything they do and say in the public arena is in the best interest of the Jewish people. And they have a lot more Torah knowledge that most of us.

That they can and sometimes do make mistakes is because they are human. It is also true that differing Hashkafos will sometimes lead to different interpretations of what is seen as a mistake. It is therefore entirely wrong to denigrate them in any way. What we may do is respectfully disagree with them. Which is a standard I try and maintain when I do it. I ask that if people comment on this – that they do the same.

Visit Emes Ve-Emunah.

Harry Maryles

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/haemtza/are-the-ultra-orthodox-incapable-of-seeing-god-fearing-in-national-religious-jews/2012/12/31/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: