Israeli media revealed the details of what it described as the secret participation of 9 Israeli athletes in the 43rd edition of the “Dakar Rally 2021” international car.
Saudi Arabia hosted the “Dakar Rally” from January 3 to 15.
The Times of Israel newspaper said that Israeli drivers participated in the Dakar Rally despite the ban on Israelis entering the kingdom.
Danny Pearl and Charlie Gottlieb, two Israeli drivers, ran the race as representing Belgium and did not wear any specific symbols indicating that they are from Israel.
The newspaper added that three other Israeli contestants, Aviv Kadshay, Yizhar Armoni and Maoz Fielder, also participated under the CRV team that raises the American flag.
According to the same source, two other Israeli drivers entered the Kingdom with Israeli passports and participated under the local company “MYHERITEGE”, which specializes in genetic testing.
The team of the Israeli company, MYHERITEGE, was accompanied by researcher Neret Ophir from the Azri Institute for Gulf Studies at the University of Haifa.
Ofir, an Israeli athlete, published on her Facebook account photos of her with the Israeli team and a picture with the Saudi contestant, Saleh Al-Saif.
According to the newspaper, Israel has long-established secret relations with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, which have strengthened in recent years, in light of facing “common Iranian threats in the region.”
In a related context, the Hebrew site Kalkalist quoted the Israeli contestant, Kadchai (58 years), saying: “Until the last moment, we did not know if we could compete.”
He added, “they managed to take us on a flight to Saudi Arabia, but we only received entry visas at Jeddah airport (west).”
“We met with Saudi Sports Minister Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, but we received a clear message from the authorities through the race organizers not to place any flags on the cars or any mention of Israel,” Kadchai continued.