The Israeli judo team, which was supposed to fly to the United Arab Emirates via Istanbul for the Grand Slam event, was stranded at Ben Gurion Airport after Abu Dhabi refused to allow them to fly via Turkey, Channel 1 reported.
The 12 Israeli jukokas were supposed to receive their visas to the United Arab Emirates in Istanbul and arrive for the competition tonight (Monday). The team had to travel to Amman to receive the visas instead.
Moshe Ponte, the president of the Israel Judo Association, said: "We will not give, even if we have to reach Abu Dhabi on foot. Now we have to fly to Amman to get visas there instead of flying to Istanbul as we planned. We are looking to change our tickets. We will arrive after 14 hours of waiting in Amman. We may arrive exhausted, but we will not give up."
While initial reports stated that Turkish Airlines had refused to allow the team to board, the Judoka team confirmed that it was the UAE government which forced them to go through Amman instead.
Ponte said: "I would like to clarify that Turkish Airways has no connection about off loading the passengers. The Turkish company was sensitive and considerate of the team and approved boarding despite the missing visa documents."
"The Israeli Judo Team had already boarded the flight towards Istanbul as a stopover to Abu Dhabi and received a message from the authorities in Abu Dhabi that we had no visa to enter through Turkey, but only through Jordan , so we got off the plane," he added.
The Israeli judo team has already experienced discrimination in the competition in Abu Dhabi. The team will not be allowed to compete under the Israeli flag during the event, and will be the only nation prevented from doing so. The team will also not be allowed hear their national anthem, “Hatikvah," should they win.
Israel does not have diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates.
Among Israel’s delegation is Or Sasson, who won a bronze medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. During those games, Egyptian judoka Islam El Shehaby refused to shake hands with Sasson.