The Fencers of the Hatuel Family

The Family of Warriors: The Story of the Fencers of the Hatuel Family

The Hatuel family is Israel's fencing queen with a senior coach, and four fencers at the highest levels. The family has left a significant mark on Israeli sports.

Lydia Hatuel (photo: Lydia-cz from Wikimedia)

The fencing industry in Israel hit the headlines this week after the Israeli fencing team, which competed in a competition in Europe, received a bomb alert at the hotel when suspicion of the Egyptian delegation's involvement was investigated. Fencing is one of the oldest branches in the world, and Israel also has a history in the branch. Today, 43 years ago on November 15, 1980, Delilah Hatuel was born, daughter of the Hatuel family, the royal family of fencing in Israel. Now is the time to get to know the family's story.

The love of the Hatuel family of fencing begins in the 1970s when Chaim Hatuel, Dalila's father, a discharged soldier who immigrated from Morocco several years earlier with his family, decided to establish a fencing club in Acre, the city where they lived. He dragged his two siblings Yitzhak and Lydia Hatuel into his love and the success was above and beyond what was expected. Yitzhak and Chaim participated in the Maccabiah in 1977.

A year later Yitzhak won the Israel Youth Championship. In 1979, Yitzchak repeated the win while Lydia, at the age of only 16, won the Israeli championship for adults in the foil discipline. She won the Israeli championship 19 more times, 16 times in a world record streak that entered the Guinness Book of Records. That same year Yitzhak finished 12th out of 237 fencers in an international tournament for adults, and a few months after that he added a win in an international youth tournament held in Israel.

The two Hatuel siblings at the Los Angeles Olympics

In 1980, when she was only 17 years old, Lydia managed to reach the Moscow Olympics, but did not participate in it in the end because of Israel's boycott of the games along with the Western countries. That year, on November 15, Delilah was born. The two siblings came to the Los Angeles Olympics, Yitzhak came after spending several months in prison for breaking into an apartment and stealing a wristwatch and 500 shekels. Yitzhak finished 16th out of 58 while Lydia finished 26th winning seven fights and losing three.

In 1985 Yitzhak won a gold medal at the twelfth Maccabiah Games. And in 1986 won a silver medal in the prestigious "Rommel Cup" competition, in the "World Cup" series. Yitzhak's career came to a halt at the end of that year when he was arrested for drug trafficking together with his cousin Yaffa Ivgi. He was sentenced to seven years in prison, of which he served five.

(Photo: Roy Alima / Flash 90)

The defense attorneys tried to use his character as an athlete and his contribution to sports in the country to lighten the sentence, but the court decided to make it worse precisely because he was a role model. After his release from prison, the sports federation prevented him from returning to competitions because he was convicted of a criminal act involving moral turpitude. Since then, Yitzhak Hatuel has served as a fencing coach.

Because of Yom Kippur: did not participate in the Olympics

Lydia continued to compete, at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 she was disappointed when, despite meeting the criteria, she was prevented from participating because the second day of the competitions was on Yom Kippur. She returned to the Barcelona Olympics where she finished 22nd. Precisely at the age of 33, in her last Olympics in Atlanta 1996, where she arrived as a veteran of the Israeli delegation, she reached her peak achievement. She was chosen to carry the Israeli flag at the opening ceremony of the games, while in the games themselves she finished in 13th place, the record achievement of an Israeli fencer ever.

After the Olympics, she was one of the founders of the Olympic Athletes' Committee, where she was a member until 2009. Between 2010 and 2012, she served as the chairwoman of the Israel Fencing Association. She is married to Robert Zuckerman and their four children also compete in fencing and even won the Israeli championships in the various ages. In 2011, the Hatuel brothers won the Israel Championship together.

Delilah Hatuel (Photo: MLAPH from Wikimedia)

Chaim Hatuel continued to coach and coached in no less than seven Olympics. In 1986 he got to start coaching his daughter Delilah who decided to compete in the foil discipline like her aunt Lydia at the age of only six. She was joined after several years by her brother Maor. Her cousin Kobi who, like his uncle, got involved in a drug scandal, went to prison and had to retire from the industry. In interviews over the years, the siblings who grew up together talked about the difficulty of seeing the other lose. In 2010, he achieved the highest achievement in his career, eighth place in the Senior World Championship.

Beat the world champion

At the European Championship in 2008, Delilah defeated the Olympic champion and the world champion Valentina Vezzali of Italy, but was injured in the fight against her and withdrew from the competition. That year she also reached her first Olympics, and was injured again when she twisted her knee. Delilah came back but lost in overtime 10:9 and was also kicked out of the Olympics.

She carried the injury with her when she participated in the European and World Championships. In 2011 she underwent surgery to treat the injury. For the 2012 London Olympics, Maor and Delilah failed to qualify and Maor was one win away from qualifying. Before the Rio Olympics, she managed to be ranked among the top four in the International Criterion tournament, meeting the required threshold, but she did not meet the Israeli criterion, when she failed to be among the last 16 in the European Championship. She appealed to the court against the decision of the Olympic Committee but the appeal was rejected.

Valentina Vezzali (Photo: Shutterstock)

As in 2012, here too Maor was on the verge of qualifying for the Olympics but did not succeed in the last competition. In 2018, Delilah gave birth to her son and wanted to return to compete in the European Championship, but again encountered a criterion barrier when, due to her absence from competitions during pregnancy and maternity leave, the fencing association forbade her to participate in the championship.

Delilah Hatuel sets a precedent

Delilah appealed to the court and set a precedent, the judge said that appropriate policies should be created for women in sports, which shortly after led to the creation of regulations that allow female athletes to be paid even during pregnancy and maternity leave. In 2020, she added another win in the state championship in the middle of the struggle. In 2021, Yitzhak Hatuel got into trouble for the third time together with his nephew Kobi after an indictment was filed for drug offenses, aggravated assault, as well as for weapons offenses and obstruction of justice.

Maor finished his career with ten consecutive Israeli championships, this is the first and second generation of the Hatuel family, so will the third generation still prepare a surprise for us and perhaps win a historic medal in the Olympics in fencing?


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