Baruch Dayan HaEmet. Morris Smadjah, one of the founders of competitive judo in Israel and a recipient of the Israel Prize, passed away last night at the age of 91.
Smadjah was born in Tunisia, and prior to his family's immigration to Israel in 1961, he had achieved numerous victories in judo competitions in various North African events. After immigrating to Israel, the family settled in Be'er Sheva, and Smadjah began working as an electrician at the "Herut" factory.
Upon his arrival in Israel, he heard about a coach in Jerusalem and met with him. Together, they decided to establish competitive judo in Israel. Initially, they set up a club with mats made from leftover fabrics in the "Netivot" school in Neighborhood B in Be'er Sheva. Later on, they received a donation from French benefactors, which helped them purchase new mats for the club.
In February 1967, Smadjah passed the first black belt exam in Israel together with Amos Gilad, and both of them were awarded the 1st Dan (degree) black belt. In 1970, he completed the first coaching course in Israel.
Smadjah coached at the "Neurim" club in Neighborhood D. Many of his students who learned from him went on to become Israeli champions, and the Hapoel Be'er Sheva club, where he coached, reached the pinnacle of the judo scene in Israel during the 1970s and 1980s. During those years, he also served as the coach of the Israeli national team and conducted judo instructor courses at the Wingate Institute.
During those years, the Israeli national judo team participated in numerous international competitions and won medals, earning recognition for Israeli judo on the world stage. In 2011, a new association was established, where the chairman of the association, the CEO, and the coach of the Israeli national team were all direct disciples of Shihan Morris Smadjah.
In 1997, Smadjah received his 6th Dan black belt, and in 2007, he attained his 7th Dan black belt. In 2015, he was awarded the 8th Dan black belt, which is the highest rank in Israel today.