Israeli badminton player scores visa to Indonesia for world championships


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Indonesia has granted an Israeli badminton player a visa to enter the country for the world championships after initially refusing his request.

The visa for Misha Zilberman, 26, was approved on Monday, and he arrived in Jakarta later the same day under tight security, according to the Olympic Committee of Israel. Zilberman applied for the visa six months ago and had been waiting in Singapore, a short flight to Jakarta, for the last two weeks hoping it would come through before the start of competition on Monday.

The Badminton World Federation intervened to help Zilberman obtain the visa, The Associated Press reported, citing Olympic Committee of Israel Secretary-General Gili Lustig.

Indonesia, a nation of some 250 million citizens, is the world’s largest Muslim country in terms of population. Israel does not have diplomatic relations with Indonesia.

Zilberman’s first match is scheduled to take place on Tuesday against Jen Hao of Taiwan. Zilberman competed in the 2012 London Olympics, the first Israeli badminton player to do so. He is ranked 44th in the world.

Arab and Muslim countries have repeatedly barred Israeli athletes from attending matches, sometimes as punishment for the barring of Palestinian athletes by Israel from attending international tournaments.

World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer, who last week criticized the Indonesian government, praised the decision to grant Zilberman a visa, saying: “We believe that it is important that politics and sport are kept separate as much as possible.”

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