Along with billions of others from around the world, I watched the opening
ceremony of the Olympics in London. Like the vast majority of Israelis, I felt
angry that the organizers decided to ignore the murder of 11 of our sportsmen at
the 1972 Munich Games.
In the beginning of the broadcast, in a kind of
protest, I darkened my TV screen for a minute. During this time, I remembered
again what happened 40 years ago. When I visualized the Israeli delegation
walking – with Shahar Zubari bearing our flag – I remembered his family member,
the wrestler Gad Zubari, the only one to escape from the room the terrorists
took over in the Munich village.
In that moment, two images passed before
my eyes. One was of the Israeli delegation in Munich, in its white and blue
uniform, marching happily and smiling at the opening ceremony. The other was of
11 IDF cars, on each of them a coffin containing our murdered athletes’
I was then married a year, with my wife at the beginning of her
pregnancy with our first son, living in a small apartment in the Yad Eliyahu
neighborhood of Tel Aviv.
The home black-and-white television, as was
customary, broadcast mostly snow, so we had to adjust the antenna for clearer
Selected sections from the Olympics were broadcasted from time
to time, in black and white, and the main way for me to get informed on the
latest events in the Olympic Games was to use a big old radio, which was placed
in the half room that served as a bedroom. In the snowy TV broadcasts, I watched
the rise of Shachamorov to the 100-meter finals and the wonderful achievements
of the Jewish swimmer, Mark Spitz, whom I saw earlier at the Maccabiah games
swimming like a dolphin in the Galit pool, in Yad Eliyahu.
Olympics I had some emotional involvement. The shooting coach, Kehat
Shorr, was the rangemaster of the range near the Ramat-Gan stadium, where during
my days as a teacher in the Ironi Hey High School in Tel Aviv, my students were
training in the Gadna, and the coach and I were talking. Shorr was also friendly
with my wife, who was a Gadna instructor in “Ironi Alef” high School at that
Two of our Olympic coaches in those games – Amitzur Shapira and
Mooney Weinberg – were my wife’s teachers when she was studying at the Midrasha
in the Wingate Institute for Physical Education, two years earlier. She knew
Weinberg’s wife, and Amitzur’s trainee, Esther Shachamorov.
these particular Olympic Games, we, the newlyweds, had an emotional involvement
beyond me being a sports “freak.”
On the morning of September 5 we heard
for the first time on the radio about the terrorist takeover of the Israeli
athletes in the Olympic Village. From that moment on, we didn’t leave the
bedroom. Glued to the radio, we listened to the broadcasts and fragmentary news
that came from Munich.
Initially we heard that one of the dead was Mooney
Weinberg, the wrestling coach who tried blocking the terrorists from going
through the door with his body, and paid for it with his life. Then came the
news of the murder of Yossef Romano, the weightlifter who tried to stop the
terrorists using a fruit peeling knife that was in his room, and got shot to
Every few minutes a new ultimatum by the kidnappers was
broadcasted. True and false information of the German willingness to negotiate
and the terrorists demands came through. My wife, who was at the beginning of
her pregnancy, could not stand the tension and pressure and fell asleep
somewhere in the late evening hours. I stayed stuck to the
Sometime in the early morning a report aired that the Israeli
athletes were taken to the airport, boarded on helicopters, and that the German
commando forces were able to rescue the hostages alive. With that knowledge of
the evacuation of the athletes, and the tragic deaths of Weinberg and Romano, I
fell asleep feeling relief accompanied by great pain.
In the morning, as
usual, we woke up around seven o'clock on our way to work at the “Gadna.” As
soon as she opened her eyes, my wife asked me about the athletes.
replied that it was reported that most of them were rescued and alive. We turned
on the radio to hear the details, and then we were exposed to the horrible
truth. The rescue operation failed and all our athletes were
Murdered at the Olympic Games – a symbol of peace and
brotherhood among nations. Murdered because they were Israeli.
return we went to Ben-Gurion Airport to receive the coffins. My wife and I stood
on the porch of the visitors at the airport (there was such a thing once), and
we watched the plane land slowly, and from it, carrying out 11 coffins draped
with the national flag.
Eleven coffins, and inside of them coaches,
referees, weightlifters and wrestlers who went to Germany to honorably represent
their country and came come in boxes.
These are the people the Olympic
Committee has refused to mention for the last 40 years. These athletes are the
ones that the British Organizing Committee, headed by Sir Sebastian Coe, found
not worth mentioning in the opening ceremony.
The ceremony honored
British history at length, but could not provide one sentence about the athletes
who were murdered during the Olympic Games.
Many excuses have been made.
The murder of our 11 athletes in Munich is part of the Olympics forever. They
are a component that has to be mentioned to demonstrate to the world that we all
are completely engaged, in our mutual agreement that such a horrific incident
will not be repeated ever again.
The writer is a senior adviser to
President Shimon Peres