Don't Forget to Tell Them Off, Lee

A medal today for Israel, no matter what color, will only blind us.

Just like everyone else here, I will definitely pull for Lee Korzits to win Israel's first - and most likely last - medal of the London Games. However, on second thought perhaps it would be better to pass on the pleasure, say, No thank you, and let someone else have the honor.

A medal today for Israel, no matter what color, will only blind us. A medal today would whitewash years of neglect and hostility toward sports, failed management and disgraceful budgets. For 20 years, select branches of sport have overcome these incredible obstacles and pitfalls and against all odds won honor for Israel where it was undeserved. Leaving London with the number zero representing its medal count would break the silence.

Israel's Olympic athletes train in intolerable conditions. They survive on minimal stipends. They either have to subsidize costs out of pocket or find a generous patron. Along the way, the State of Israel - its government, Sports Ministry and sports associations - spends its time undermining and humiliating them.

Does Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called to congratulate Alex Shatilov for his exceptional achievement in the men's floor exercise final, know that at age 25, one of the greatest athletes in this country still lives with his mother?

Does President Shimon Peres, who was called in to comfort Arik Ze'evi in his moment of sorrow, know that parents of novice judokas have to pay for their children's flights abroad because the local judo association collapsed?

Of course they really don't know, and they really don't care. But if the Israeli delegation were to return empty handed, perhaps someone might suddenly wake up, try to figure out what happened and fix the problem.

So, Lee, please don't try to win.

And if you should finish with a medal today, please promise me one thing. When Bibi or Shimon call, nod in agreement, say thank you, politely call them "honorable President" and "Mr. Prime Minister," then ask to speak your mind.

"If you'll allow me to point out," you tell them gently, "I'm pleased at your kind words, but do know that I didn't get here thanks to you, but rather despite you - despite the faulty education you provided me, despite the insufferable cruelty, despite the absurd budgeting. Although I easily could have broken and although it would have been much easier to give up, I'm still here."

And then hang up.

Lee Korzits
Effi Magriso