Photo Credit: Fritz Cohen / GPO
The first ever Israeli Olympic team prepares to depart for Helsinki, April 4, 1952.

A historic letter that was recently found in the KKL-JNF archives dating back to the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland, in which the first-ever Israeli delegation competed – may serve as proof to the fact that the agency provided the fledgling State of Israel with the financial support that enabled its participation in the games.

Back then, Israel was short on financial resources and could not afford to send a fully-equipped athletic delegation on a par with international standards. Enter KKL-JNF, by then a well-established Jewish agency, which made a 1,000 Lira (Israeli Pound) contribution so the Israeli athletes could play in the Finnish capital.


In the letter, seen below, the Olympic team sent KKL-JNF’s Chairman Avraham Granot “Heartfelt wishes from the first Israeli delegation to the 15th Olympic Games on the first day of the games.” The letter was signed by renowned runner David Tabak and springboard diver Yoav Ra’anan. Tabak won his initial heats in both 100 and 200 meters and reached 21st and 27th place respectively in the ensuing races. Ra’anan reached 9th place in jumping from three meters.

Israel’s Olympic team’s greeting to KKL-JNF’s Chairman Avraham Granot, July 19, 1952. / KKL-JNF Archive

After the Olympics, the Israeli government set up a “committee to investigate the affair of the appearance of the Israeli delegation at the Olympics.” The committee examined “whether there was a failure in the performance of our athletes at the games,” and determined that there was no failure and there were even satisfactory achievements.

The Israeli Olympic Committee issued a statement following the governmental committee’s report, declaring, among other things: “We note with satisfaction that the committee’s conclusions belied all the slurs and libel that had been disseminated in the Israeli press regarding the actions and behavior of the members of our delegation to Helsinki.” The Olympic Committee also noted that “relations between the Jewish community in Helsinki and the delegation were proper and polite, and in many cases, a friendly and uplifting connection was forged that left a deep impression on the Helsinki Jewry.”

Wouldn’t you like to read those slurs and libels…

Ricky Dadon, KKL-JNF’s head of archivist said: “We are thrilled to reveal a historical document dating back to the 1952 summer Olympics. At that time, the Israeli Olympic Committee requested financial support from KKL-JNF and, of course, like always – KKL-JNF was up to the task.”

“We are proud of the way things turned out in hindsight and certainly proud of where we are today. KKL-JNF sends its congratulations to all the Israeli athletes competing these very moments, and wishing them much success in the future.”


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