You mean to tell me Jews are fighting?

A nice Jewish boy became the World Judo Champion - and the not so nice Egyptian sore loser he bested refused to shake his hand.

Jack Engelhard

OpEds Judo (illustration)
Judo (illustration)
צילום: מתוך האתר האישי

Maybe to your mother it was good to hear that you are “a nice Jewish boy,” but out on the street a comment like that was trouble and prelude to a fight.

We assume that Sagi Muki is just that, a nice Jewish boy, but a strange thing happened when he entered the World Judo Championship finals in Tokyo, Japan.

About a week ago, this Israeli took home the top prize, an historic first, after he took down the best of the best to earn the gold. Now, he is champion of the world.

Who knew?

Well, we should have known, because Jews have always been fighters, given half a chance, and we are not even talking IDF, where it is dangerous to take on these nice Jewish boys.

Yes, strange things happen when our guys get motivated and it’s time to take care of business. They turn ferocious.

True, the myth has it, or had it, differently, but there came that day in Montreal, that day when the Star of David was first hoisted in Israel, and a hundred of us stormed out of the yeshiva and for the first time fought like an army against the French-Canadian thugs who had been tormenting us Sunday after Sunday. We had them weeping for mercy.

The stereotype of “bookishness” persisted up to the mid-1940s when Jews, vastly outnumbered, fought like lions for the founding of Zion.

Courage, there was a-plenty. (From Mark Twain: If horses knew their strength, we should be afraid to ride them. So too the Jews on their untapped resources.)

But money, guns and ships were needed, desperately, and it did not matter where any of it came from, clean or unclean. Later, the ethics. Meantime, Zionist leaders turned to any source that could be helpful, and would you guess that Jewish gangsters, mostly from New York and Chicago, would turn out to be Jewish heroes.

Tough guys they were, but with a soft spot for their mothers…and their heritage.

Bless them, and yes, I know that to this day, some purists still think such help was unbecoming and un-kosher.

“The trouble with tainted money,” a Baptist preacher once told me, “is t’aint enough.”

From Jewish gangsters, it was plenty. From Robert Rockaway’s terrific book and article “Gangsters for Zion,” we hear Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel saying, “You mean to tell me Jews are fighting?” That was all he, and other godfathers with a Yiddish twist, needed to know, and they gave; they gave piles of cash, and never mind by what unsavory methods they made that money. 

Yes, later the ethics. Meanwhile, a nation needed to be born. 

Nor, even upon individual laurels were Jews out of the picture. From Mike Silver, we have “Stars in the Ring: Jewish Champions in the Golden Age of Boxing.” 

Yes, once upon a time in America, alongside Joe Louis, there was Benny Leonard, Benny Ross, Lew Tendler, and Maxie Rosenbloom.

In our generation, we were lucky to have had Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi created Krav Maga, a method of self-defense special for Jews and Israelis, and when we were young we trained with his black belt masters in Philadelphia, and later with Imi himself in Israel at Pardes Hanna. He developed the system to combat the gangs of thugs in Eastern Europe. 

“So a man may walk in peace” was Imi’s guiding principle.

In other words, never look for a fight, and never start a fight, but always be prepared and trained to the hilt.

You learned “anything goes” for the streets, but “sportsmanship” for the ring or the mat…but it is too bad that the Egyptian who lost the semi-finals refused Sagi Muki’s handshake. 

The handshake is traditional, and so apparently is the classless animosity from Israel’s enemies. 

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He is the author of the international book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal.” His Holocaust to Montreal memoir “Escape from Mount Moriah” has been honored from page to screen at CANNES. His Inside Journalism thriller, “The Bathsheba Deadline,” is being prepared for the movies. Contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: