Arab Athlete Proud to Represent Israel at Paralympics

Monday, August 22, 2016 |  Israel Today Staff

A 26-year-old legally-blind Arab woman says she is proud to be representing Israel at the upcoming Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The Olympic Games have come to an end, which means it’s just about time for the Paralympics. And this year Israel is looking for gold from its women’s goalball team.

Goalball was devised in the 1970s specifically as a sport for blind athletes, and was added to the Paralympics program in 1980.

Elham Mhamid of the Galilee town of Umm el-Fahm was the first Israeli woman to take up the sport.

Today, Mhamid is caption of the Israeli women’s goalball team, and she told The Jerusalem Post that she takes “a lot of pride” in representing Israel.

“I will do everything to make my country, my relatives and the Arab sector proud, showing that there is no difference between all of us and that we can live together,” she said.

Umm el-Fahm is regarded as a hotbed of anti-Israel sentiment, and Mhamid noted that she only started learning Hebrew when she was 18. But despite initial tension with some of her Jewish teammates, she soon came to the realization that, contrary to what she was raised to believe, the Jews are not her enemies.

“We slowly began to get to know each other and everything worked out. Now I feel that I really belong. I love everyone and they love me,” Mhamid said. “We sleep together, we go out together, we train together, we cry together and we do everything together.”

As an Arab, Mhamid told the Post that while she can’t personally relate to Israel’s national anthem, “I still get emotional hearing it when I’m on the top of the podium and I see the flag.”

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