After preparing kosher feasts and hiring a large staff to cater to thousands expected to arrive in the Japanese capital for the games, the head of Chabad in Tokyo, Rabbi Mendi Sudakevich, told of his and his family’s disappointment after learning that the mass of Israelis they expected to host for the Olympics will not be able to make their way to Tokyo. This was of course due to the resurgence of coronavirus in Israel, Japan’s own pandemic induced restrictions, and the decision to hold the Olympic Games without crowds.
“Until a few weeks ago, the issue was still up in the air,” explains Sudakevich. “At the airport, it took about an hour and a half until you got a permit to enter the country. Now everything is going crazy.”
According to Sudakevich, many believed the Olympics would be cancelled outright due to COVID-19.
“The media was against the games, and a lot of pressure was exerted in an attempt to cancel the Olympics,” Sudakevich said.
“But as the deadline approached, the people seemed to internalise that eventually, everything would go as planned. [Tokyo’s residents] eventually reconciled with the games taking place after they were told there would be no crowd. It makes them feel they are being looked after,” the rabbi added.
Before the decision to ban crowds from the Olympics was announced, Sudakevich and his family went to great lengths to ensure the surge of Israelis they hoped to host during the games would feel comfortable.
“It was mainly about food. Originally we started renting out places near the synagogue, and we organised a team that could serve a large group,” said Sudakevich.
“During one Chanukah evening that coincided with a football game that took place here in the city, we received about a thousand visitors,” said Sudakevich. “We expected the Olympics to be a larger event, not to mention it goes on for three weeks straight. But now everything just fell apart.”