Monday, April 27, 2015

Wrestling in Palestine

     Before 1948, mandate Palestine witnessed growth in football, boxing, wrestling and weightlifting. It is not known exactly when and how wrestling entered Palestine, however, presumably it started in early 1920’s when sports became a form of modernity. Abu al-Jibin mentioned that a traditional wrestling called al-Tabban al-Arabi  had existed in Palestine long time ago.[1] Some news show that wrestling in Palestine started in the twenties after the establishment of social-athletic clubs in cities as Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and Gaza. No doubt, that Palestinians were influenced by the “athletic culture” (which they could survive without) brought by the British in early 1920’s, and by Egypt which witnessed a remarkable development in sports in the thirties and forties of the past century.

    In June 1934, Difa mentioned that a competition was held at the ground of Islamic Sports Club in Jaffa to determine the champion of Palestine. Few wrestlers took part, among them the champions of Luda Omar Lahham and Yousef al- Maleh, in addition to the champion of Ramla Muhammad al-Awadi (Abu Hadila). However, this competition ended with a fight. [2] Al-Awadi was a well-known wrestler, he competed with Arab and Jewish wrestlers.

    In 1934, Shabab al-Arab was established, directly, it included wrestling as one of its main athletic activities. Reviewing Filastin and Difa one can find many announcements about challenging in wrestling. Some of these announcement requested names, addresses, clubs’ affiliation and weights of those willing to compete. In November 1936, Islamic Sports Club of Jaffa invited boxers, wrestlers and weightlifters to attend a meeting for a preparation for Palestine championship. (it is not known if this championship took place or not due to the political conditions that resulted from the great 1936 -1939 Revolt).

   In December 1936, the athletic committee of  Islamic Sports Club of Jaffa assigned Dr. Haqqi Mazin (a dentist originally from Turkey) as its athletic director and boxing coach, and Ramez Hashem as coach for weightlifting, in addition to Abdel Latif Siksek for wrestling. These three sought to promote sports in this club. In November 1937, Jamiyyat al-Ummal Al-Arabia (Arab Workers Society) in Haifa held a meeting in boxing, wrestling and weightlifting where its members took part beside Islamic Sports Club, Shabab al-Arab, Orthodox Club and Nadi al-Uruba. The funds of these competitions were allocated for aiding the people of  Syria who had been afflicted by floods.[3]

    In January 1942, meetings in wrestling were held for supporting Arab volunteers of WWII. In Roman style feather-weight, Abdel Rahman al-Abudi defeated Muhammed Hafez. And in Arabic free style Mustafa al-Halawani – champion of Syria and Lebanon - was defeated by Muhamad Abu Hadla from the town of Ramla. The strange thing in this meeting that the mayor of Ramla Sheikh Mustafa al-Khairi signed a statement witnessing the winning of Abu Hadla and handed to him.[4]

  Jam’yyat al-Ummal al-Arabiyya  Arab Workers Society (established in 1925) was the major Arab workers union in Palestine and had nineteen branches in most Palestinian cities, it was active in sports especially in wrestling and weightlifting. Among its well-known wrestlers were Suleiman al-Bibi from Haifa and Muhammed Dibah.

It’s worth mentioning that wrestling was included in the committee of (boxing, wrestling and weightlifting) and was affiliated with Palestine Sports Federation (established in 1931, functioned until late 1930’s, re-established in 1944). In July 1945 this federation organized a meeting between Palestinian and Egyptian weightlifters and wrestlers at the stage of Cinema al-Hamra under the auspices of the mayor of Jaffa 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 wrestlers were Mustafa al-Habbab, Suleiman al-Bibi, Muhammed al-Awadi (Abu Hadla), Hasan Ismiyya and Hussein Bushnaq.[5] 

   In November 1945, the committee of (boxing, wrestling and weightlifting) Lajnat al-Al’ab al-Thaqila asked the Egyptian coach Nazmi Makhail to coach its members in Roman wrestling for one month.[6]

   Shortly before the break out of the confrontations between Arabs and Jews in Palestine at the end of 1947 (29 November), Palestine Sports Federation was planning to organize competitions in the areas (Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gaza, Haifa, Galilee, Nablus) in wrestling, weightlifting and boxing. Then champions of these area would compete among themselves to determine the champion of Palestine.[7]
After the Nakba

After 1948, many Palestinian wrestlers appeared on the arena in Palestine and in the Diaspora, among them the famous Palestinian Lebanese wrestlers George Dirani and Nubulsi brothers.  In early 1974, the Palestine Wrestling Federation PWF was founded, it joined the Arab WF in 1974, the International WF in 1980, and in 1982  the Asian WF. This federation was chaired by Muhammad al-Bayari 1978 – 1980. It was based in Beirut. Due to the civil war in Lebanon it  moved to Baghdad where it was chaired by Farid As-Sayyed.


[1] Abu al-Jibin Khair Eddin, Qissat Hayati fi Falastin wal Kuwait, Dar al-Shorok, Amman 2002.
[2] Al-Difa', 10 June, 1936.
[3] Al-Difa', 6 November, 1937.
[4] Al-Difa', 10 January, 1942.
[5] Al-Difa', 25 July 1945.
[6] Al-Difa', 6 November 1945.
[7] Al-Difa', 30 August 1947.

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