Haile Satayin, a.k.a Ayele Seteng (b. 1955) was born in Ethiopia. He immigrated to Israel in 1991 as part of ‘Operation Solomon’, when 35 Israeli Air Force and El Al aircraft amazingly transported over 14,000 Ethiopians to Israel in just 36 hours. The secret operation was launched in response to the collapsing Ethiopian government, and subsequent rumours of war and attacks on Ethiopia’s Jews, known as Beta Israel. In Israel, Seteng pursued his dreams and became a professional long-distance runner. He soon won a number of Israeli national championships, then moved on to international competitions, and competed all over the world. In 2004, he represented Israel at the Athens Olympics, and at nearly fifty years of age, was the oldest track athlete there. Four years later, he qualified again for the Beijing Olympics, making him the oldest runner once more. He nearly made it to the London Olympics in 2012, too, despite being 57 years old. Of this he has said: “My age is old, but my heart is young.” His Tel-Aviv half-marathon (21 km) time of 1:03:43 and Venice Marathon (42 km) time of 2:14:21 are still Israeli records. The father of seven children, he has won 31 national titles, and holds the record for being the oldest person ever to compete in a IAAF World Championship. In 2011, an Israeli documentary, Seret Ratz (“Running Movie”) was made about him.
Pharaoh commanded his people: “Every son that is born shall be cast into the River” (Exodus 1:22). The Nile was the mainstay of the Egyptian economy and its most venerated god. Therein lay the deeper—still relevant—significance of Pharaoh’s decree: Today, too, Jewish survival depends on our ability to resist the dictum that children must be submerged within an educational system whose focus and goal is the attainment of a “career” and “economic success…” – Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Agnes Keleti (b. 1921) was born in Budapest and was Hungary’s national gymnastics champion by age 16. Shortly after, World War II began, forcing Keleti to go into hiding. Much of her family, including her father, were killed in the Holocaust. Keleti survived by posing as a Christian villager. After the war, she began training once more, but had to overcome injuries that prevented her from competing. Determined to go on, she qualified for the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, and won 4 medals, including a gold. Keleti returned to the Olympics in 1956, winning 6 more medals, 3 of which were gold. Being 35 years old at the time made her the oldest-ever gold medal winner in her sport. Her ten total medals makes her among the most decorated female athletes of all time. She also won at the 1954 World Championship. After the Soviet Union’s invasion of Hungary in 1956, Keleti immigrated to Israel, where she still lives today.
A very similar story is that of Maria Gorokhovskaya. Like Keleti, she was born in 1921 (in Ukraine) and took up gymnastics at a young age. After surviving the war, she also competed at the 1952 Helsinki Games, winning 2 golds and 5 silvers. Her 7 medals in one Olympiad is still a world record. Like Keleti, Gorokhovskaya won at the 1954 World Championships, too. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, she made aliyah to Israel in 1990. Both Keleti and Gorokhovskaya have been inducted in the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame. In addition, Keleti has been inducted to the Hungarian and Gymnastics Halls of Fame.
Words of the Week
Everything that is for the sake of God should be of the best and most beautiful… When one feeds the hungry, one should feed them of the best and sweetest of one’s table. When one clothes the naked, one should clothe them with the finest of one’s clothes. – Maimonides