Palestinian with Israeli roots wins Jordan’s first Olympic medal

Cnaan Liphshiz

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

Abu Ghoush, who was born in Jordan, received a call from Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who congratulated him on winning gold Thursday at the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Olympic Games.

In addition to celebrations in Amman, the event was also celebrated at the Israeli-Arab village of Abu-Gosh southwest of Jerusalem, where the athlete’s family used to live until 20 years ago, Ynet reported.

Abu Ghoush, who beat Russia’s Alexey Dinisenko 10-6 in the under- 150-pound category though he was not expected to win, burst into tears while giving a television interview after his victory.

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According to Ynet, his family comes to visit Abu Gosh 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 Gosh 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, pre-state 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 Gosh 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 Gosh’s residents were allowed to resettle in it by 1950.

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

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