Lamp to Sun: Legendary Canadian woman athlete cancelled at Int’l Women’s Day event for Israeli roots

Lamp to Sun: Legendary Canadian woman athlete cancelled at Int’l Women’s Day event for Israeli roots

Lamp to Sun: Legendary Canadian woman athlete cancelled at Int’l Women’s Day event for Israeli roots

Born in Vancouver to Israeli parents, Leah Goldstein, 54, is an athlete par excellence and a legend in herself. Of the many laurels that Goldstein has brought Canada, she is the champion cyclist who aced the gruelling 3000-mile Race Across America in 2021, making history by winning the overall solo division.

So, what about her?

Goldstein lived in Israel as a child and served in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Her military service too was as distinguished as her civilian achievements—Goldstein was the first woman elite commando instructor in the IDF. She also served as an Israel police undercover officer.

This was three decades ago, as if in another life.

Ghosts of Past

But, that life in Israel has come to haunt her in Canada. She was to be the keynote speaker at an International Women’s Day event in Ontario next month, but the invite has been withdrawn, she has been cancelled, under pressure, reportedly, from a pro-Palestine group as the Israel-Hamas war continues to rage.

The Jerusalem Post reported that Goldstein was told she was no longer welcome. The media outlet quoted the organisers as saying that the decision was taken due to “a small but growing and extremely vocal group” that objected to Goldstein’s IDF service.

“Our focus at INSPIRE has been and will always be to create safe spaces to honour, share, and celebrate the remarkable stories of women and non-binary individuals,” the women’s group said in a statement cited by The Jerusalem Post. “In recognition of the current situation and the sensitivity of the conflict in the Middle East, the Board of INSPIRE will be changing our keynote speaker.”

Cancelling Jews for War on Hamas

Reacting to the development, world’s leading anti-hate organisation Anti-Defamation League (ADL) expressed concern over what it sees as an emerging trend to cancel Jewish speakers which tantamounted to breaching principles of free speech.

Marina Rosenberg, ADL’s senior vice-president for international affairs was quoted as saying: “We’re seeing more and more instances of Israeli speakers being disinvited simply because of their nationality or IDF service,” Rosenberg said. “Let’s be clear: Boycotting Israeli speakers is hurtful, antithetical to free speech, and ultimately counterproductive. It fails to recognize the complexities of the situation.”

Goldstein’s Laurels

Goldstein started her sporting career as an international kickboxer. She won the World Bantamweight Kickboxing Championship in 1989.

Then she switched over to cycling. Goldstein had a setback when she suffered a devastating crash in 2005. She overcame the incident and took to ultra-endurance racing.

In the 2011 iteration of the Race Across America, she stood first on the women’s solo category. In 2019, she finished second in the women’s group; in 2019, she stood fifth overall. Her golden moment came in 2021: she won the overall solo division.

Goldstein scaled the 3,000 miles in 11 days, three hour and three minutes. She thrashed her closest opponent by some 17 hours.