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August 10, 2012

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 10, 2012 By Richard S. Willis The Media Line JEDDAH, SaudiArabia--In this bustling, overcrowded city on the Red Sea, the 2012 London Olympics hardly raises an eyebrow although, 17 men and two women par- ticipated. But the debate over whether Saudi Arabia's two female athletes--Sarah Attar and Wojdan Shaherkani-- should compete, let alone abandon the hijab head cover- ing to conform to the Olympic International Conference's rules, is unsurprisingly di- vided along gender lines. The debate has been re- duced to name-calling with a ' number of Satidis describing Attar and Shaherkani the "prostitutes of the Olympics." It has highlighted the ongoing issues regardiflg a woman's place in Saudi society. "There are not many Saudi fathers and brotherswhowant to see the women in their fam- ily compete on a pitch or in an arena with thousands of men staring at them," Ahmed A1- Ghamdi, an unemployed car salesman told The Media Line. "What does that say about the womanwho exposes herself in IS S on ale such a way? ' Attar, 19, who is attend- ing Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif is competing in the women's track 800 meters. Shaherkani, 16, is par- ticipating in the women's judo event, Shaherkani garnered the most attention since the opening day of the Olympics when the International Judo Federation banned Shaher- kani from competing because her hijab posed a safety ri~k. Following negotiations be- tween Shaherkani's father, the OIC and the federation, the federation ruled the girl may participate wearing "suitable headgear." Wearing the hijab was an is- sue taken out of Shaherkani's hands. The Saudi government made it clear that women can compete only if they "wear suitable clothir~g that com- plies with Sharia (Islamic law), are accompanied by their guardian and they do not mix with men during the games." However, the hijab contro- versy, while seized by women's rights activists as another infringement on Saudi female athletes, prompted little out- cry among women in Saudi Arabia. Rather, the issue boils down to what is appropriate strength to break the bonds behavior, that establish their roles in AbeerA1-Hussainireceived society. her bachelor's degree from "Forget about Islam," said a Florida university. The the academic who spoke on 26-year old wears her hijab the condition that her name loosely and considers herself not be published. "The tradi- liberal on social issues. Yet, tionalrolesofmenandwomen she says her advocacy for are clearly defined with men women in Saudi society has providing thefinancialmeans its limits. "I wish the girls for the family and women in'the Olympics well, but it's providing babies and a nice not something I would do. home. That's changing with And even if I did, my father bettereducationalopportuni- would not even consider it. ties for women and new jobs There is too much at stake, for them." Even if my family supported However, she noted that my right to compete in sports, women drawing attention to our relatives, our neighbors themselves is a"red line" that would condemn it. Thereis few Saudi women are willing too much at stake. It just does to cross. not affect me but my entire "It's almost incomprehen- family." sible to the av.erage Saudi to Indeed social pressure seeabeloveddaughterontele- is immense to toe the line. visionparadingonthefieldfor While societal pressure pro- all to see," she said. "It is too vides checks and balances much for family members to to ensure conformity and see their daughters exerting stability, the burden usually themselves in some outfit falls on women, even remotely form-fitting. It A woman lecturer at Prin- is a big shame for the family. cess Nora Bint Abdulrahman As hard as it is to understarrd, University outside of Riyadh, it boils down to 'what will the told The Media Line that neighbors think'" traditions and customs are What the neighbors think so entrenched in Saudi soci- is found on social media ety that few women have the websites. In addition to label- PAGE I~A ing Saudi female athletes as prostitutes, one Twitterwriter suggested thatAttar would purposely fall down while running to show off her body. Many Saudis, however, were quick to defend the athletes. @SkittlesFairy responded to a critic by writing, "You remind me of Europe in the DarkAges, you insult this and slur people in the name of religion. This religion has nothing to do with you." Saudi l~sha AI-Dowasi, tweeting as @Rsha D, wrote, "Muslim athletes from Mus- lim countries have been participating in the Olympics for years. Sport only becomes prostitution when Saudi women practice it." Khalid Khalifa, who de- scribes himself as a Saudi comedian on his Twitter pro- file as @KhalidKhalifa, wrote, "The person who made this Hashtag ("Prostitutes of the Olympics") is a reminder: idi- ots still exist. He/She should be neutered. This genecannot evolve." The Princess Nora Uni- versity academic cautioned against taking Twitter flame wars as an accurate pulse of Saudis. "Most Saudis have never left the GCC (the Gulf Coop- eration Council countries of SaudiArabia, Kuwait, Ornan, Qatar, Bahrain and United Arab Emirates), or even Saudi Arabia," the academic said. "They don't read or watch the Western media; they don't tweet, watch the Olympics or even think about the women's rights in the same context as Westerners do. There is a right and wrong. And display- ing your body immodestly is wrong." Summer Khoury, a Pales- tinian expatriate who works for a charity organization in Jeddah, told The Media Line that she wants to see more Arab women represented in the Olympics, but under- stands Saudis' trepidation with women's participation. "Things here in Saudi Arabia are moving very fast," Khoury said. "There is an explosion of women work- ing in the shops and malls, and even mixing with men. It was unheard of just a few years ago. When society shifts so rapidly, you have people lash out crudely. But it's just the process how a society evolves." By Hillel Kuttler BALTIMORE (JTA)-- Rain fell, snow floated and temperatures plunged as Richard Magid rode his motorcycle back home to eastern Oregon after visit- ing his son in Corvallis, Ore a few y~ars ago. Magid might have pulled off the road to warm up had his Israeli paratrooper training not toughened him to the elements. "I just kept it in gear and thought, 'I can do this,' " Magid said Aug. 31. "You're wet and cold in the army, too. You get through it and realize that your physical limitations are only tem- porary." Now living back in his hometown of Berkeley, Ca- lif Magid said that his two years of service with the 3rd Platoon of Paratrooper Unit 890 made powerful impressions. Planners of the platoon's 40th anniversary reunion, set for Aug. 30 at a mem- ber's home in the central Israel town of Yehud, had been seeking Magid, 62. "Seeking Kin" found him on Aug. 31 with an assist from Sue Fishkoff, editor of j the Jewish news weekly of Northern California (and a former JTA writer), who knocked on Magid's door when his telephone number proved to be outdated. A dental hygienist who recently returned from a lengthy vacation, ~agid likely won't be able to at- tend the r.eunion. However, the platoon's lone Ameridan member said he looks for- ward to calling his old Israeli friends. For their part, pla- toon mates expressed happi- ness at locating the soldier they knew as "Ricky," who had impressed theln as an extremely quiet, pleasant young man. "We are delighted to find him," said Yaakov Cohen, a Tel Aviv native who has lived the past three decades in Sydney, Australia, +and will fly in for the~ event, "He deserved our exerting all efforts. He was a volunteer twice'. He immigrated to Israel, and he volunteered for the paratroopers. On top of that, I have to say that his mannerisms [were notable[; even when things weretough, he never com- plained. He was a real, real gentleman. Rick Magid was. really a top guy." Platoon members had fig- ured, correctly, that Magid returned to America follow- ing his military service, but didn't know his hometown. They remembered his being slightly older than they were, mean-ing that he probably had attended uni- versity pre-Israel--but they didn't know what school. Magid's home base in Is- rael was listed as 17 Talpiot St. in Ramat Gan, which they assumed was a cousin's address. It wasn't a cousin who lived there but rather Moshe Ben-David. The two had met at a Young Judaea camp in Berkeley, and their discussions 'qnspired me to go to Israel," Magid said. After taking a' few com- munity college courses, Magid signed up for Young Judaea's one-year program, which included classes in Jerusalem and stays on a kibbutz and moshav. He returned to Berkeley, then headed back to Israel to enlist in the army. "I didn't want to go to Vietnam,' he said. "I figured I should fight for my own people, for a cause I could believe in. It made more sense to me." At Sanur Base, situ- ated between Jenin and Nablus, the three-platoon, 120-member unit began ba- sic training on Nov. 3, 1970. The grueling experience caused a third of recruits to depart the 14-month course before completing its officers-training pro- gram. Soldiers in the 3rd =Platoon spent three months each atthe Suez Canal and -in the Jordan Valley and Gaza Strip. They also pa- trolled Israel's border with Lebanon and held training exercises on the Golan Heights. Cohen remembered a "days-long and really tough" ll0-mile march from Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev to the southern port city of Eilat. During the hike, a Piper light aircraft released parachutes. Plastic bags tied to them contained chocolate milk containers and letters from home. "It was unbelievable, something you never for- get," Cohen said. "It was a nice surprise for us." Magid, a father of four and grandfather of nine, recalled when he and the platoon had nearly entered Lebanon on a mission to build a road. But after wait- ing all night in rain and hail, commanders canceled the mission because of the poor conditions. The 3rd Platoon would fight in the Yom Kippur War. Two members, David Indig and Yair Tzoref, fell in battle. Another two, Tzvi David (cancer) and Giora Sorek (suicide), have died in the years since. Their widows are invited to the reunion, where a moment of silence will be observed. Magid says he regrets re- turning to America follow: ing ITis two-year military stint--as an older immi- grant, he was discharged a year early, although he doesn't remember asking to be--and missing the Yom Kippur War, He couldn't Courtesy Shmuel Groberman A fellow paratrooper said that Richard Magid, shown at far rigilt in a 1972 ceremony inducting noncommissioned officers, "was really a top guy" to know during their Israeli military service. get a flight to Israel until Magid "almost always was the fighting ended. Whensleeping," making him easy he landed, he bumped into to identify in the photo- a platoon mate, Avraham graphs. "We were always so Sabach, a member of Ben-tired," wrote Groberman, Gurion Airport's security an architect livingin Jaffa. team. Magid would work as By Aug. 1, the list of an EI Al flight attendant for 10 sought men whom six months before settling platoon member Amikam in America for good. Since Douieb had mentioned on then he has not returnedthe "Hamador L'chipus to Israel. Krovim" (Searching for His Israel DefenseForcesRelatives Bureau) radio training "was the greatest program had been whittled experience I ever had," to three. With Magid's Magid said."It brought out reemergence, only Sabach mybestattributes.Ittaught,and Yaakov Tene remain me a lot of lessons--that at large. you can surpass physical"All the challenges over limitations with your men- the years in the paratroop- tal+capabilities." ers were such strong and The platoon's Facebook real character builders that page contain+s scores ofany problems we faced were members' photographs, minute," Steve Goidstein, along with a booklet pub- a pharmacy owner who lished during their service, lives in Hod Hasharon, told One of its headlines called "Seeking Kin." A South the 110-mile hike the Ion- Africa native, Goldstein had gest in Israeli paratrooper . befriended Magid, whose history. Hebrew capabilities were One post by ~;hmuel poor. Groberman noted that "We laughed together, cried from exhaustion and pain, guarded each others' backs in battle, and I'm sure and know that there exists a bond and a love between us that will return as soon as we meet again this sum- mer," Goldstein said of the platoon members. , "I can continue for hours writing about this special bunch. We lived with each other day in and day out, not seeing our families for months on end. This was our true family." If you would like "Seek- ing Kin" to write about your search for long-lost relatives and friends, please include the principal facts and your contact informa- tion in a brief email to Hillel Kuttler at seekingkin@jta. org. "Seeking Kin" is spon- sored by Bryna Shuchat and Joshua Landes and family in loving memory of their mother and grand- mother, Miriam Shuchat, a lifelong uniter of the Jewish people. i