Palestinian with Israeli roots wins Jordan’s first Olympic medal
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Palestinian with Israeli roots wins Jordan’s first Olympic medal

(JTA) — Jordan won its first-ever Olympic medal — a gold — thanks to the performance of a Palestinian taekwondo fighter whose family left Israel 20 years ago.

Ahmad Abughaush, a Jordan native, received a congratulatory call from King Abdullah II for his victory Thursday in Rio de Janeiro.

In addition to celebrations in the Jordanian capital of Amman, the medal was celebrated as well in the Israeli-Arab village of Abu Ghosh, southwest of Jerusalem, where the athlete’s family lived until the mid-1990s, Ynet reported.

Abughaush, who upset Russia’s Alexey Dinisenko, 10-6, in the under-150-pound category, burst into tears while giving a television interview following his victory.

According to Ynet, his family comes to visit Abu Ghosh several times a year, where they still have many relatives and friends.

Known for its hummus restaurants and convenient location on the main road connecting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Abu Ghosh is considered a model of coexistence between Israeli Jews and Arabs, whose relationships are often strained by religious issues and matters connected to the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Abu Ghosh was among a handful of Palestinian villages whose leaders stuck to a policy of neutrality during the civil war stages of Israel’s War of Independence. In practice, some villagers sided with the yishuv, prestate Israel’s Jewish population, in a breakthrough that had strategic significance when the yishuv was fighting desperately to reach besieged Jerusalem.

Despite this cooperation, Abu Ghosh residents were slapped with eviction notices after Israel’s independence in 1948 along with Palestinian villages in the area that served as bases for launching attacks that killed hundreds of Jews.

However, under public pressure and protest by left- and right-wing Israelis over what was perceived as an unjust and ungrateful move, most of Abu Ghosh’s residents were allowed to resettle there by 1950.

Today, Abu Ghosh is one of a few Arab-Israeli villages with Jewish residents.