Israeli Athletes Return Home Praise Courage of Soviet Jews

Israel’s 32-member team returned today from the World University Games in Moscow with little to say about the harassment they were subjected to but with high praise for the courage and spirit of the Soviet Jews they met.

The Israeli athletes were greeted with flowers and kisses as they debarked from an airliner that brought them from Moscow via Zurich. Only yesterday they had attended Sabbath services in the Central Synagogue in Moscow where they were greeted with exuberance and enthusiasm by Muscovite Jews. They said it was an unforgettable experience; meeting, talking to and seeing Russian Jews who want to go to Israel. “We were very privileged to be there and see our brethren,” said Itamar Marzel, a basketball player.

Yair Frishman, manager of the Israeli volleyball team, said the visit to the Moscow Synagogue yesterday afforded many Moscow Jews their first opportunity to meet and speak with Israelis. The visiting athletes exchanged postcards, pins, emblems and other small gifts with the Moscow Jews. Many asked them to convey greetings to relatives already in Israel.

HARASSMENT HAD DETRIMENTAL EFFECT ON TEAM

Regarding the catcalls, boos and anti-Semitic epithets that dogged them during most of the contests in which they participated, the Israeli sportsmen referred to a statement issued in Moscow by Adin Talbar who headed the Israeli contingent. Talbar blamed the International Federation of University Sports. The committee that organized the World University Games, for permitting the harassment and for not sending the observers they promised.

Before leaving Moscow the Israeli delegation also told newsmen that the harassment, whistling and booing “reflect on the ability of the Russian organizers to stage competitions in accordance with international rules and in the spirit of fair play.” The delegation added that the continuous incidents “had a detrimental effect” on the Israeli team, and protested the treatment of the Israeli basketball players and their Jewish fans by uniformed policemen and civilians. The athletes told newsmen at Lod Airport that apart from the harassment the treatment accorded them by the Soviet organizing committee was correct and the arrangements were excellent.

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