On May 16, Tomer Hemed, an Israeli member of Wellington’s professional soccer team, scored an impressive two goals in a single match, with the second securing a tie for his teammates. In an apparent expression of gratitude to God, he put on a kippah, covered his eyes, and recited the opening of the sh’ma. James Hirsh describes the controversy that followed:
Stuff, the most popular website in New Zealand, was apparently unfamiliar with the sh’ma (which, it should be noted, predates the modern state of Israel by more than 3,000 years). Its report referred to the post-goal prayer as a “show of support for his home country during a time of violent conflict between Israel and Palestine.”
Wearing a flag and saying a prayer are among the most common celebrations for athletes in any sport and in any country. After winning the 2019 World Series, the Washington Nationals star Juan Soto held aloft a Dominican flag. . . . The Egyptian [soccer player] Mo Salah has routinely dropped to his knees to perform the sujood, the prostration towards Mecca that is an integral part of Muslim devotion.
For Tomer Hemed, however, the problem is not just what his celebrations were, but the fact that he is an Israeli Jew performing them right now. At the New Zealand Herald, Michael Burgess called Hemed’s actions “at best naïve” and “hard to defend.” . . . According to Burgess, Hemed “needs to be respectful towards Australia and New Zealand, where the majority of people probably have a vastly different view to his own about the current conflict.”
This is a much more dangerous idea than the oft-recited command that athletes “stick to sports.” It is the idea that a Jew must keep his identity hidden unless he assimilates his views and values into the prevailing cultural norms. It is the idea that an Israeli cannot be proud of his country without the threat of Nazi comparisons. It is the anti-Semitic tenet of holding Jews to a higher and unreasonable standard, and it should no longer have any place in sports.
Read more on CJN: https://thecjn.ca/the-anti-semitic-double-standard-faced-by-every-jewish-athlete/