The First Israeli in the Winter Paralympics Refuses to Compete on Shabbat

March 16 2022

As a strictly Orthodox Jew, the paralympic skier Sheina Vaspi was relieved when she obtained a religious exemption to compete in the Beijing Paralympics while wearing a skirt. But when one of the events she had qualified for was rescheduled for Saturday of last week, Vaspi chose to forfeit her spot so as not to violate the Sabbath. Despite this disappointment, as David Waldstein writes in a profile of Vaspi, she is grateful to have “made history [as] the first Israeli to participate in the Winter Paralympic Games.”

“It is very important for me to represent my country the best I can,” Vaspi said, “especially because I did not go into the army. My grandfather died in one of the wars that Israel had and my uncle fell in one of the wars, too. I feel very, very proud to be the first Israeli to represent the country in the Paralympics.”

Military service is compulsory in Israel, but Vaspi was excused because she lost a leg in a car accident when she was ten. She said that perhaps the attention she will garner from competing in the Beijing Games will open the gates for other Israeli athletes, many who never considered the possibility of competing until her breakthrough.

Vaspi, twenty, grew up in the north of Israel, where skiing is a rare adventure for a lucky few, available on one mountain for two or three weeks a year, depending on the weather. As a girl, she could see Mount Hermon from her home, but never dreamed of skiing it.

But then one day, when she was fifteen, the Erez Foundation, which assists soldiers and children with special needs, . . . invited her to ski. Vaspi was uncertain about accepting, until her father, a farmer, religious teacher, and tour guide in Africa, showed her a video of people doing “crazy things” on the slopes.

“I said, ‘Yes, I want that,’” Vaspi said in English.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: olympics, Orthodoxy, Shabbat, Sports

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela