Ori Sasson is nothing less than an Israeli national hero and a Jewish icon. A bronze-medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics, Ori put Judo in the international spotlight and charmed the world with his personal warmth that shined through before and after all of his hard-fought matches.

Additionally, Ori Sasson, like Shalva, represented Israel’s strides toward tolerance and inclusion right there on the Judo mat. Following his final match with an Egyptian opponent, Ori reached out for a handshake, as is a common practice of sportsmanship, but his hand was left hanging as he stood alone in the center of the ring. This memorable gesture sent waves of concerned discussion and national pride among world Jewry.

Recently, Ori paid the children of Shalva a visit. The reaction of the superstar in their midst was overwhelming. Ori hugged, took countless selfies and signed autographs for his fans at Shalva.

But that’s not all. Ori dropped two exciting pieces of news:

First, Shalva will be launching a one-of-a-kind Judo program. Ori will design the program and help us with optimal implementation. This is truly unique program for participants in the After School Activity Center will help our participants work on their strength, balance and self-confidence. And the biggest surprise? Ori himself will be directing the club!

Additionally, Orr’s going to be auctioning off his Gi (that’s the special Judo-jacket worn during matches) and the proceeds will benefit the launch of the program. Details are on their way 😉

“I think these children inspire us to give everything our best shot. Look, Israel is a small country. We’re tested, big time. But we brought home Olympic Brass. If they can do it… then we can do it. We’ve got to believe that.”

Ori Sasson’s partnership with Shalva is the latest addition to the already bar-raising constellation of programs being conducted in the Sports Center. The Sports Center is already home-court to the Shalva-HaPoel Jerusalem youth team. It’s the largest and most accessible court of its kind. The Olympic Pool will host injured soldiers who are getting back on their feet and a Therapeutic Pilates course is in the works too.

So, Ori Sasson, we thank you. Thank you for identifying with our children. Thank you for being a part of the change.