February 22, 2020

MMA in the Promised Land

“Aviv Gozali had just defeated his Ukrainian opponent by submission in 56 seconds—an eternity, given his previous, record-setting 11-second submission win on Aug. 25 in Connecticut—and the delirium enveloping the sold-out crowd in Menora Mivtahim Arena on Nov. 14 surely rivaled the decibel levels celebrating the league basketball titles captured in the building by dynastic Maccabi Tel Aviv.

Gozali basked in the roar of fans enjoying this mixed martial arts (MMA) fight night as the public-address system played one of the best-known ballads by Israel’s legendary singer-songwriter, the late Arik Einstein. It opens with:

Hagozalim sheli azvu et haken,
Parsu knafayim v’afu.
Va’ani tzipor z’kena nisharti ba’ken,
Mekaveh m’od shehakol yihiye b’seder.

My fledglings have left the nest,
Spread their wings and flew.
And I, the old bird, remain in the nest,
Very much hoping that everything will be OK.

The song is called “Uf, Gozal”–Fly off, Fledgling–and the night’s leave-taking moment involved the old bird, Haim Gozali, 46, standing in the cage reveling in his son’s triumph. He’d replaced the black T-shirt depicting his face, the one he’d worn into the cage for his own fight moments earlier in the bout immediately before his son’s stunning victory, with a white shirt featuring Aviv’s mug. Haim had secured a submission victory late in Round 1 against his Russian opponent in a contest promoted as his finale.”

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