Olympic medalist teaches children with disabilities

Olympic medalist Ori Sasson inaugurates new judo school in Jerusalem, volunteers with special needs children.

Chana Roberts ,

Ori Sasson in Shalva
Ori Sasson in Shalva
Arnon Busani

Olympic medalist Judoka Ori Sasson inaugurated on Sunday a judo school for children with disabilities, at the National Shalva Center in Jerusalem.

In attendance were Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev (Likud), Yahav Bank CEO Shaul Gelbard, Shalva President and Founder Kalman Samuels, and many other dignitaries.

Shalva is the largest and most advanced center for children with disabilities in Israel, and serves over 1000 children daily. The center offers free therapeutic, rehabilitative and educational therapies around the clock, and serves as a recreational and cultural center. Its coffee shop, and an events and conference center, are open to the public and promote social inclusion.

The new school, located in Shalva, was made possible when Sasson auctioned off the jacket in which he won the bronze medal. The jacket sold for $100,000, and Sasson donated the money to Shalva, to benefit the new judo school. Afterwards, Sasson decided to volunteer to direct the school's educational program.

Certified judo instructors who will teach the weekly group classes.

"I am thrilled to see the fulfillment of this dream, which we worked towards for so many months," Sasson said. "With the help of Yahav Bank, which has supported me for many years, and the mutual values that motivate us, we have succeeded in creating a school wherein every girl and boy can develop life skills by engaging in sports."

Yahav Bank will sponsor Ori Sasson for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"The establishment of the judo center for people with disabilities is another opportunity to do good in the world," Regev said. "The ministry's policy to enable, to provide accessibility, to open the door to additional populations, provides them with the tools to maximize the potential that Shalva fosters."

"We at Yahav Bank invest special efforts to support educational programs for disadvantaged children and youth," Gelbard explained. "We are very excited to open this special school at Shalva, which does holy work for these children and their families. Engaging in judo, and sports in general, promotes physical and emotional well-being, self-image, and values. We are happy to give them this gift."

Sasson was born in Jerusalem and trained at the French Hill Community Center in Jerusalem. At 17 years old, in 2007, Sasson won Israel's national judo championship. This achievement was repeated in 2008, 2009 and 2015; in 2015, he also won the gold medal at the 18th Maccabiah games.

In 2010, Sasson earned international acclaim by winning the bronze medal at the European championships in London. His most significant accomplishment was at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, where he won Israel's second bronze medal at the competition. In the competition, he beat by ippon in the first round the Egyptian judoka Islam el-Shahabi, who refused to shake Sasson's hand at the end.