Israeli martial arts pro looks to inspire Jewish pride, fight antisemitism

‘We’re Jewish, we’re proud, we’re Israeli, we’re Zionists – we’re not afraid of you.’

Susan Tawil, World Israel News

Natan Levy, 32, is a professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter for the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) out of Las Vegas, Nevada.

He has turned from the ring (or “The Octagon,” as the fighting enclosure is officially called) to teach “Jew-Jitsu” self-defense classes to help fellow Jews combat antisemitism.

The UFC is a relatively new sports organization, having formed in 1993 as an entertainment venue pitting martial art combatants against each other in tournament-style fights.

The sport is a mix of wrestling, boxing, and various martial arts. It has evolved over the thirty years since its inception, refining rules, dividing fighters into weight categories, restricting steroid and drug use, and banning certain attacks: eye-gouging, biting, pulling hair, kicking kidneys, etc.

Levy, who is a Karate and Kung Fu third-degree black belt, was born in Paris but grew up in Israel.

He taught martial arts in Tel Aviv before moving to Las Vegas to join the UFC in 2018, when he was 24; the first Israeli in the organization.

His current record is 8 wins out of 9 matches, placing him among the world’s top 100 MMA fighters.

A year ago, Levy responded to rapper Kanye West’s antisemitic comments on a radio podcast, saying: “If you got a problem with me or my people, come see me, bro.” Levy says that dealing with antisemitism is harder than fighting, but he thinks his fellow Jews should know how to fight too. “Jewish people…should be strong, they should be proud,” he says.

Levy was in Israel during the October 7 Hamas terrorist attack.

He and his wife Dana (also a black belt) were visiting family for the Jewish holidays when Gaza terrorists invaded Israel on October 7th, slaughtering 1,200 Israelis and abducting 250 people.

When Levy returned to America, he began giving free martial arts classes to men, women, and children in Brooklyn, where there has been one of the biggest spikes in antisemitic attacks in the US. One group of students came in with their Krav Maga (an Israeli martial arts form) instructor.

Levy has helped to train them for their volunteer work with the Community Security Service, a local group that guards synagogues and Jewish events. Since October 7, demand for the group’s help has tripled, says Raz Chen, the instructor.

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“Whatever I can do, I will do,” says Levy. “For me, it’s about focusing my energy towards the Jewish people and letting them know they should be strong, they should be proud.” He reflects: “Whether you’re proud of being Jewish or ashamed of being Jewish, you’re going to be hated just the same. So you might as well be proud, be happy, be confident. Dealing with hate…is hard, but it has to be done.”