"Sixteen years ago, at this very spot, the bridge collapsed under the feet of the Australian athletes. This terrible tragedy is a trauma that remains with us to this day." KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler was speaking on Monday, July 15, at a ceremony at the Yarkon Park in Ramat Gan dedicating a memorial for Greg Small, Yetty Bennett, Elizabeth Sawicki and Warren Zines, the four Australian athletes who were killed on July 14, 1997, when a temporary bridge over the heavily polluted Yarkon River collapsed. Another 60 Australian athletes who were visiting Israel to participate in the Maccabiah Games were injured.
"It was precisely at this point that the Australian community demonstrated grace and nobility by deciding to adopt the Yarkon River, to rehabilitate it and transform it." Stenzler continued.
"Today, you also crossed the Yarkon, a moving gesture in memory of those who met their deaths here sixteen years ago. By doing so, you have sent a message of hope for all of us. I can assure you that KKL-JNF will continue to support the Maccabiah and to care for the Yarkon River," Stenzler concluded.
The 19th Maccabiah is taking place in Israel on July 18-30th, 2013. Around 9,000 athletes from 72 countries are taking part in the games, and 20,000 tourists are in Israel to attend the event. The Maccabiah is the third largest sporting event in the world, after the Olympics and the Universiade, and this year's games are the largest Jewish-Zionist sports event ever held in Israel.
Mr. Roy Salomon, Honorary President of the 19th Maccabiah, described the fateful night when the Australian team gathered to decide whether to go on with the games or to go home: "Tom Goldman asked for a show of hands, and the entire Australian team rose and clapped. They clapped not only to express their desire to continue the games, but also to honor their four teammates who died. We will never forget them."
The final speaker was Joshua Small, the son of Greg Small, whose words moved many in the audience to tears: "My life changed forever sixteen years ago. This is the second time I am here, participating in the bowling competition, and I'm wearing my father's bowling shirt. Thank you for honoring my father's memory and the memory of the other three Australian athletes who died with him."
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