Jerusalem – Israeli Taekwondo delegate to Beijing, native of Ramallah-adjacent settlement Bat-El Gaterer keeps Shabbat, settles for kosher instant food, staying focused on her mission to take home Olympic medalJoin our WhatsApp group
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In between their Taekwondo matches, the opponents take a breather and fill up on a protein bar that will keep their energy level high for the next confrontation. Having no time to sit down for a proper nutritious meal, this serves as their only source of energy. But while her opponents munch on their bar, Bat-El Gaterer, the only Taekwondo delegate to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, adds hot water to her kosher instant noodle cup made in Israel.
It’s not that Gaterer has a poor taste in food. It’s just that it’s so hard to find a kosher protein bar, and if it means she has to make do with a cup of instant noodles full of MSG, than that’s what it’ll be. That’s how it goes when you’re the only religious contestant in the entire Israeli Olympic delegation.
Gaterer’s coach, Noa Shmida, wished to clarify what may seem to the average reader as a curious jest: “Athletes keep a very strict dietary regime, which is even more critical when the type of sport requires measuring and calculations of muscular mass.
“Bat-El arrives at the competitions after having consumed junk food such as those instant foods, which have an affect. As someone who is in charge of her nutrition, I regret that she cannot consume healthy food – but she has her own faith and will not compromise.
“However, she has not only succeeded in her field and made it into the Olympic Games, but is the only representative of that field (Taekwondo) from Israel. That’s a huge accomplishment.”
Gaterer’s uncompromising nature reaches far beyond kosher matters. Her coach recalled a Taekwondo competition held in Belgium for which the Israeli delegation scraped to find a single hotel room close to where competition was held so that Gaterer wouldn’t have to walk all the way there on Shabbat.
Taekwondo is a Korean martial art primarily based on footwork. In its competitive version, it is a kicking match awarding one point for kicking the rival in the stomach and two points for hitting him in the head. After three rounds of two-minutes each, the one accumulating the highest point score is the winner. Eight years ago, Taekwondo became an official Olympic sport, and the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is the second time Israel sends a Taekwondo delegate.
Twenty-year-old Gaterer grew up at the Kochav Yaakov settlement not far from the West Bank city of Ramallah. At the age of nine, she registered for a street fighting class and her coach suggested she focus on footwork. Recognizing her potential, he referred her to the Achi-yehuda Dojang club and its team in Jerusalem. Gaterer began learning Taekwondo when she was 12 and hasn’t stopped kicking since. While studying at the girls’ seminary in Ofra, she also started training with Israel’s national team.
“Everyone at seminary accepted it (Taekwondo practice) and supported me,” said the Olympic delegate.