A ‘gate,’ source of sports pride

Windsurfer Gal Fridman won Israel’s only Olympic gold medal in 2004.

Despite gray, rainy spring weather at Tel Aviv harbor, Eitan Friedlander looked like he’d be happy to chat all day.

The former Olympic sailor and sailing coach sat in a tiny, dockside restaurant on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. And he had every reason to be proud.

“We are a country whose biggest border is the sea,” he said. “And instead of a border, we look at it as a gate.”

The water is the home of much of Israel’s sporting prowess, at both amateur and elite levels. Four of the country’s seven Olympic medals came in water sports — and diving, sailing, windsurfing and parasailing are immensely popular in coastal destinations like Tel Aviv and Eilat, on the Red Sea.

The surge is recent.

“In the last few years, people understood what they were missing,” Friedlander said.


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