Dozens of glistening competitors took the stage for an annual body building and fitness competition in Tel Aviv last week. But behind the scenes, machismo made way for cooperation.
Just short of 80 contestants participated in 14 categories at this year's Israel's National Amateur Body Builders' Association competition.
Backstage, the mood was one of camaraderie. In the run up to the flex-off, Jews and Arabs, male and female, young and old from around the country, worked together ahead of the big show.
"There is no politics whatsoever in the sport," said Yoni Hanna, president of the Israeli chapter of the National Amateur Body Builders' Association.
Exhausted from weeks of strict dieting and last-minute exertions, the muscle-bound athletes primped, painted and prepped before taking the stage. Some waited over eight hours for their chance to strut their stuff before the panel of judges.
This year's men's winner, 25-year-old Or Magdasi of Tel Aviv, beamed, veins bulging, as he lifted his trophy. Isabell Svatovich was awarded her second consecutive championship in the competition.
Magdasi will get a shot at representing Israel at the 2019 Mr. Universe competition in the United Kingdom.
Hanna, also a former Mr. Israel, says there has been growing interest in fitness and body building in Israel in recent years, and that turnout at this year's competition far exceeded expectations.
Text from the AP news story, Israeli bodybuilders compete in annual flex-off, by Oded Balilty.