JERUSALEM, ISRAEL – Brazilian Judo World Championship bronze medalist, 21-year-old Camila Minakawa, made Israel her home on Wednesday.
Israel national women’s Judo team coach, Shany Hershko, said the two "were in regular contact at international competitions over the years and a few months ago the idea of Camila making Aliyah (immigrating to Israel) came up."
Minakawa, Hershko said, will join the Blue and White team, noting that "Camila was very impressed by the high level of the training that the Israeli team undertakes and from the professional environment here."
Camila, together with her mother, "decided that her place is here in Israel and she expressed a desire to represent the State of Israel in competition," according to Herhsko.
"I am certain that a sportswoman who won a bronze medal in the Under 21 World Championship will add an additional dimension and power to our talented Israel Judo team when she joins us,” Hershko said.
In addition to her innate talent, Minakawa, who has been practicing Judo since a young age, grew up in a strongly supportive household: her Jewish mother is a Judo coach and Japanese-Brazilian father is an Olympic Judo referee.
Minakawa, who won a gold medal at the 18th Maccabiah Games in 2009, was active in the Zionist Youth movement Habonim Dror, and has often visited Israel.
Over the years, Hershko, and Minakawa stayed in touch. Several months ago the two met at an international training camp, and talked about Judo and Aliyah. A later visit as a guest of the Israel Judo Association finally sealed the deal, and Minakawa decided to make the big move.
The Jewish community in Brazil numbers around 80,000, most of whom live in the capital São Paulo, and in Rio De Janeiro. Brazilian Jews maintain a strong connection with Israel, with an average of 200 making Aliyah every year, and many hundreds more participating on educational programs such as Taglit-Birthright or Masa Israel Journey (a joint project of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency).
The Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Natan Sharansky said he was moved by Minakawa's decision to move to Israel.
“Camila joins a family of outstanding Jewish sportsmen and women who choose to make Aliyah each year, and who participate in a wide range of sports bringing great honor to Israel in international competitions,” Sharansky said.