Saturday, April 4, 2015

Weightlifting in Palestine

       Issam Khalidi
   It is not known exactly when and how weightlifting entered Palestine, however, presumably it started in early 1920’s when sports became a social phenomenon and a form of modernity. In 1930's and 1940's, Palestine has been influenced by Egyptian sports which witnessed a noticeable growth in boxing, wrestling and weightlifting at that time.

In November 1935, Islamic Sports Club of Jaffa called all boxers, wrestlers and weightlifters to register their names for a championship in these three sports to be held by Palestine Sports Federation (established in 1931) in 1936.[1] In December 1936, the Islamic Sports Club’s athletic committee in Jaffa assigned Ramez Hashem as coach for weightlifting committee,  Dr. Haqqi Mazinwas for boxing, and Abdel Latif Siksek for wrestling.[2]

In April 1937, al-Difa’ correspondent brought this news about Nadi al-Nahda al-Riyadi in Tiberias: “I visited this club and was pleased with what I saw British on-commissioned officers came to watch the games [weightlifting]. They were impressed by the performance of its weightlifters Munir al-Ajlouni, Faisal Qahwaji, Hasan Ajami, Salah Mansour and Majid Qa’war. In weightlifting Faisal al-Qahwaji defeated Hasan Ajami. While the best was Munir al-Ajlouni who lifted 110 kg. Also, he lifted in one hand 87 kg. After this show all the attendees made some compliments about the athletes and the administration which is headed by Yousif al-Tabari and his secretary Khalil al-Tabari.”[3] 

 In November 1937, Jam’yat al-Ummal al-Arabiya (Arab Workers Union) in Haifa - which was active in sports - organized few matches in boxing, wrestling and weightlifting where few clubs took part such as Islamic Sports Club, Shabab al-Arab, Orthodox Club and Nadi al-Uruba. The funds of selling ticket were allocated for supporting the Syrian people inflicted by the disastrous floods.[4]

A new light-weight athlete by the name Blado took part with the Arab Sports Club in Jaffa. In September 1937, he challenged Ramez Ahamd - champion of Islamic Sports Club (champion of Palestine).[5] In November 1937, the Arab Sports Club in Jaffa organized a tournament in weightlifting to determine the champion of Palestine, Syria and Lebanon in lightweight.[6]

In late 1930’ and 1940’s, Palestine witnessed  a growth in boxing, wrestling and weightlifting. In 1943, Palestine Weightlifting Association PWA was founded. In May 1944, it organized its first tournament under the auspices of Jaffa’s Mayor Omar al-Bitar on the stage of Cinema al-Farouq. Ali Hatariyyeh from Nadi al-Rabita al-Islamiyyah won the featherweight. Issa Tams from Society of Orthodox Scouts won the lightweight. Subhi Mikhail from Dar al-Aitam Assuriyyeh (Syrian Orphnage) won medium weight. Darwish Katbeh from Kawmi Sports Club )formerly called and later Islamic SC) won the light heavyweight. Ali Talaba from the Institute of Physical Education won the heavyweight. The referee committee was combined of Dr. Haqqi Mazin, Dr. Muhammad Shukri, Vladimir Jorsh.[7]

After the re-establishment of the Palestine Sports Federation PSF in 1944, amateur boxing, weightlifting and wrestling emerged in one committee al-Lajna al-Amma lil-Musara’ wa Raf’ al-Athqal. Palestinian weightlifters intensified their competitions with Egyptian weightlifters. In March 1945, this committee organized a championship in wrestling and weightlifting. And in August 1945, it organized a competition in weightlifting at the stage of Cinema al-Hamra under the auspices of Omar al-Bitar. Egyptian weightlifters such as Mukhtar Hussein (international champion) Ahmad Jeisa, Khader al-Tuni (Olympic champion, 1936-gold medalist) took part. Among Palestinian weightlifters were Ali Talaba, Adib al-Hashash, Ahmad Shleibi, Darwish Katbeh and Abdel Hajj Abdel Malek. In July 1946, a show in weightlifting was held in al-Ma’had al-Riyadi al-Arabi in Jaffa, where its members took part: Hasan Nouri, Ali Abu Oka and Rashid al-Yasir.

In September 1947, Difa' stated that Palestine Sports Federation received a letter from the international Egyptian referee Muhammad Naseer who agreed to visit Palestine to arbitrate a competition in weightlifting to determine the champion of Palestine in all weights. However, it's not known if this competition was held due to the escalation of political conditions at that time.[8]

    In 1950’s and 1960’s, Sector Gaza under the Egyptian administration witnessed a noticeable growth in many aspects including sports. This was the reason that sports movement’s center of gravity was shifted to Gaza Sector after 1948.Compared to other Arab countries, Egypt had the prominent athletic prestige. The Egyptian administration established the “Regional Council for Youth Care,” in Gaza Sector which was headed by the General Governor, and included 25 members, most of whom were sports leaders and heads of sports federations (football, volleyball, basketball, handball, table tennis, track and field, weightlifting and wrestling). The Supreme Council of Youth in Cairo supported this regional committee financially and technically.

  At that time, few weightlifter appeared on the scene such as Muhamad Abu Shahla who won the bronze medal at the third Pan Arab Games in Morocco in 1961.[9]

  In 1972, Palestine Weightlifting Federation (PWLF) was established.  In 1974, it became a member of the Arab Federation of Weight lifting AWLF. In 1979 it joined the International Weightlifting Federation, and the Asian Federation in 1982. Since 1975, it took part in Pan Arab Games in Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Algeria and Morocco. Since 1982 it participated in international competitions in Greece, Bulgaria, Poland, Germany, Egypt, Tunis, Algeria and Iraq. PWLF took part as a mediator between the Egyptian Federation and the IWLF in Budapest Hungary in 1993. Few Palestinians became referees and administrators in this sports. As example, Azmi al-Hajjar became an international referee in 1984. Later, he was selected as counselor to the AWF in December 1993. Muhammad Said Hamdan was selected as a member of AWF in April 1993 and Jihad al-Khadra was elected to the technical committee of AWF in April 1993.[10]

  Palestine took part in the Arab Weightlifting Championship in Lebanon in 1995 where 10 Arab countries took part. Also, it  took part in Pan Arab Games in Lebanon in 1997, in Jordan 1999 (fifth place), and  in 2004, 2007 and 2011.


[1] Filastin, 16 November 1935.
[2] Filastin, 24 December 1937.
[3] al-Difa, April 19 1937.
[4] al-Difa, November 6 1937.
[5] al-Difa, September 27 1937.
[6] al-Difa' October 10 1937.
[7] al-Difa', 30 May 1944.
[8] al-Difa', September 12 1947
[9] Usama, Filfel. Rahala al-Khitiar, Al-A’nqa’ al-Riyadi,
[10] Al-Ittihad al-Falastini li-Raf’ al-Athqal,


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