Blame the Wind

Suddenly these Olympic Games of shame came and left cracks in the absolute axioms that we invented for ourselves. Israel - not what we thought.

Israel is busy consoling itself: It's not so terrible, better luck next time. "The main thing is to participate" also goes down well, to say nothing of "it's only sport" and "a respectable appearance." And of course the fact that the wind was so weak on the decisive day.

The national store is overflowing with condolences - the number of Jews who won medals, the "respectable" seventh place taken by the Israeli swimmer, and the Hebrew tattoo (! ) on the arm of the French swimmer. Also the words of the national disappointer, Lee Korzits - who said with her eyes brimming with tears, "We aren't suckers" and "I deserved a medal" - are so comforting, admit it. So lovely.

And indeed, it is really only sport we are talking about. It is not a disgrace to come home from the Olympics without a medal. True, there are 65 countries that did win medals, including - how can we dare to see this? - most of the so-called "backward" Arab countries like Kuwait, Morocco, Tunisia, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Even Mongolia and Trinidad-Tobago. But Israel's destiny will not be denied, certainly not at the next Olympic Games. Had there not been such high hopes, these lines would not have to be written now.

"Bring us medals!" the headlines screamed even before the Games had begun. "I will shout out the 'Shema Yisrael' prayer and go to war," the windsurfer promised. It is doubtful whether indeed the entire country held thumbs for her, as the newspapers reported, and maybe not even half. The wind was too weak, the wind experts explained later, and because of the wind the situation deteriorated all the way down to sixth place.

This is a situation Israelis are not used to. Sixth place? And not 66th place? Something very deeply-rooted has gone wrong here. And no, it is not just a matter of sport.

We have gotten used to a different kind of thinking: We are the best - number one, son. Ask any backpacker who comes home after a post-army trip abroad, and he will tell you that the Indians are filthy, the South Americans are ridiculous, the Chinese are weird, the Thais are cheats and the Nepalese also aren't so hot. They managed to teach everyone something. And in general, the Americans are so square, the Swedes are boring, the Germans lack a sense of humor and the British have no resourcefulness. Only we are the Chosen People, the light unto the nations, to all the nations. We are the leaders in high-tech and agriculture. We have the most patents and apps. Tel Aviv is New York. The Galilee is Tuscany. The Air Force is the most sophisticated and the Israel Defense Forces are the most moral. Look at the list of Nobel Prize winners to see the Jewish genius.

But suddenly these Olympic Games of shame came and left cracks in these absolute axioms that we invented for ourselves. Israel - not what we thought. Just put it to an objective test, and what the hell happens? A flop. A backward flip-flop, just like the PISA standardized test scores that also aren't an Israeli favorite.

What's the lesson? That a little bit of modesty wouldn't hurt here. A dash of connectedness to reality is also recommended. After that it will be possible to look at the successes, and they are plentiful, and at the failures, which are also numerous, with realistic eyes. A proven military victory, a few more successes to boast about, and alongside these a nation just barely like all other nations, sometimes a little bit more and occasionally a lot less. A real infrastructure for success exists here almost solely with the army, now that the kibbutz has passed away.

The remaining successes are almost all those of individuals, and there is very little between them and the state. Ask Israel's Nobel Prize laureates in the sciences what they think about the higher education system in which they grew up. They won international honor and fame despite it, not because of it. The same is true of art and literature, dance and music. Amos Oz became an international name only because of Amos Oz. He does not "bring honor" to the country, he brings it to Amos Oz. His impressive success bears no connection to the country in which he grew up (and over whose image he struggles ). The same is true of choreographer Ohad Naharin, violinist Itzhak Perlman, actress Ayelet Zurer or model Bar Refaeli. Just like the Israeli high-tech successes, they are individual successes, not that of the state; the state merely appropriated them without any basis.

And so it is in sport. The successes of our Lee are hers alone, just as her failures are. Neither the wind that blew in Weymouth nor that which blows in her home beach Michmoret is the wind, the spirit of Israeli success. For that to arrive, something different is needed, something completely different.