Jeusalem, Israel - Aug. 16, 2021 - Israeli President Yitzhak Herzog and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett rolled out the red carpet to host a tribute event, Monday, August 16, ח׳ באלול, in honor of the Israeli Tokyo 2020 athletes at Beit Hanasi, in Jerusalem, Israel. Also at the event was former president, Reuven Rivlin, the Minister of Culture and Sports, Hili Tropper, the chairman of the Olympic Committee, Yigal Carmi, and the returning Olympic athletes.
The Israeli delegation received four Olympic medals and was crowned the most successful Olympics in the history of the State of Israel. The 90 Israeli athletes who went to Tokyo were the highest number of athletes who participated in any Israeli delegation to the Olympics.
For the first time, the Prime Minister and the President hosted the welcome home event together. "Welcome to the President's House, welcome home. Medals, honor, and world fame. You are great! When you went to Tokyo, we had a dream - to hear "HaTikvah" in Japan. And you have fulfilled our dream. You made history when the sounds of "HaTikvah" were played not just once, but more than once. Thank you,"
The president added about the unity of the people around the Games: "You have expanded our hearts, inflated our chests, and made a whole country proud, happy for a few moments. As we watched you breathe a moment before the final score, a second before the decisive battle, as we looked up at you, weeping with excitement, marching to the podium, millions of Israelis, we were all - we were one. Left and right, secular and religious, Jews and Arabs, veterans and immigrants, coalition and opposition. From one end of the country to the other. In those moments, we were all just Israelis. With one, with one heart full of happiness and pride."
At the end of his speech, the President thanked the Olympic Committee, the coaches, and the families who accompanied the athletes for many years, not always on simple terms. "We are proud of you. We are all waiting for you to pick up the gold, from the Eiffel Summit in Paris. Thank you," he concluded.
"Being part of Israel's Olympic delegation is always a great privilege. Being part of the Olympic delegation that has brought the most notable achievements of all time is a double privilege that you have won." began the Prime Minister. Bennett continued, "I would like to address my remarks mainly to those who returned to us from Tokyo without medals. The investment, the effort, the hard work, the disappointments and joys, the arduous way you have proceeded since childhood, and especially the message through you to the youth of the State of Israel: that you have to work hard - that's the main thing, for that we are grateful.
"In recent weeks, the Israeli Olympic delegation has provided us with refined moments of pride and happiness, in a complex and challenging period for all of us. An entire country watched you from a distance, got excited, and wiped away a tear. We looked up at each and every one of you, we held your fingers - and you did not disappoint. On behalf of the Government of Israel, and on behalf of all the citizens of Israel, I would like to congratulate you on the great honor you have brought to the State of Israel. You won medals, and the citizens of Israel won you."
Winner of the gold medal in artistic gymnastics, Linoy Ashram thanked the president for the warm welcome and said: "At the Olympic Games in Tokyo we felt your support. We knew that the entire State of Israel was behind us - regardless of the result we achieved. This is the Israeli spirit, the solidarity, the mutual guarantee that we all know and love. We stand here now as Olympic champions, still not believing and waiting for someone to wake us from this dream. Maybe, in fact, you better not wake us up. When we were here in June, two months ago in total, excited and apprehensive, a few days before the great moments of our lives, on the biggest stage in the world - we may have dared to dream about it, but not to say it out loud. In competitive sports, Years of work down to an hour or two of performance, with the eyes of the whole world looking at us."'
The gold medalist in-ground gymnastics Artem Dolgopyat added: "The glory or honor goes to those who stand at the front, but this is only the end of the pyramid, and every such pyramid rests on a long line of people thanks to whom we have reached this moment...and allow us to dream the farthest - and fulfill. So on behalf of all of us, the athletes of the Olympic delegation, thank you."
In the words of the chairman of the Israeli Olympic Committee Carmi: "For almost three weeks, our best athletes competed with the best athletes in the world. Some reached the top, some reached the fourth place and some were disappointed, but everyone, all ninety, gave their all to be at their peak at the Olympics."
In the midday sun, the smiling athletes posed for traditional photos, and countless selfies were taken.