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

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.

Read more at New York Times

More about: olympics, Orthodoxy, Shabbat, Sports


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University