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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Boxing Brings People Together

Last night  Mikhael Ostroumov was in Bălţi, Moldova to cheer on two teammates from his boxing club located in Afula, Israel. In one fight, Yosef Ktzraui, an Arab Israeli, stopped Turac Icoz of Turkey. Ktzraui was a bit wild and occasionally fought with his hands down, but he battled like a bulldozer as he overwhelmed his more experienced opponent. In another fight, Khalil Jabarin, another Arab Israeli, also had his hand raised after facing Mucahit Rahman Birsan of Turkey. After the matches, Mor Oknin voiced his support for the Israelis online.

Ktzraui and Jabarin both made their debuts on a card promoted by Evgheni Boico for Arena Boxing Moldova. A promoter and a coach, Boico is an increasingly important man in Moldovan boxing and in Israeli boxing. Last night's event included boxers from several countries.

Boxing has the power to bring people together. This is especially true in Israel where Jews and Arabs don't always have a chance to develop meaningful relationships with one another. Since the popularity of the sport is relatively small in the country, Jews and Arabs must train together. Boxing can help form friendships that might not otherwise exist. These friendships can help break down walls of bigotry.

The old Am-Shalem's gym in Nazareth was a place that brought together Jews and Arabs. Tony Milch's Gloves and Doves program is also bringing boxers of different backgrounds together in an attempt to foster peace. The relationship between Arthur Abramov and Nur Rabia, chronicled in the short film Jerusalem In Between, is another example of boxing building bridges.

It's ironic that such a violent sport can help forge unlikely friendships, but there is something about two fighters baring their souls inside the squared circle, putting their lives on the line for the entertainment of the fans, that produces a shared experience in which few others in the world can relate.

As Dahlia Am-Shalem once said, "You take two boxers: one white, one black; one Arab, one Jew; whatever and whoever wins the fight, you'll always see them embrace at the end. Boxing breeds mutual respect. It binds people together."

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