CSJL Logo Center for Sport and Jewish Life
Home About Us Articles Health & Fitness Teens Youth Sports Auction Donate Links Contact
Page Font Size:

Teens Page

Teens > Terrorism: From the Munich 11 to 9/11

By Cory Nagelberg

As teens living in the year 2005, we see and hear a lot about terrorist attacks. Even the United States, we now know, is not immune from the threat of terror - at school, on the bus, on planes, and just about anywhere. Thirty years ago, these attacks were much less common, and our security systems were not nearly as advanced as they are today. It was a serious breach in security at the 1972 Munich Olympics that led to a terrible tragedy at the Games - a tragedy that still makes us shudder today.

Early on the morning of September 5, 1972, at the Munich Olympic Games, eight Palestinian terrorists snuck into the Olympic Village. They went to a room were a dozen Israeli athletes were sleeping. They began to bang on the door. When coach Moshe Berger and weightlifter Joseph Romano went to the door, they realized that they were about to be attacked. They were both killed immediately. One Israeli athlete survived by jumping out of the window. The remaining athletes were taken hostage, and ultimately transported to the airport. There, a huge firefight broke out, killing all the Israelis, most of the terrorists, and a few German police. The other terrorists were captured. The Israeli delegation lost eleven out of twenty-six athletes and friends.

The Israeli delegation and much of the world was unbearably saddened by these events. My family's friend, Arie Behar, was an Israeli Olympic wrestler who, by a stroke of fate, did not make it to Munich. He had qualified for the Games and was ready to leave with his team. But right before the delegation was supposed to leave for Munich, Arie got hurt in the Israeli army (Tzahal). There were severe injuries to his shoulder, arm, and head. He was unable to participate in the Games. He knew many of the athletes quite well, and he looks back at that time with sadness, anger, and love. Mr. Behar thinks that greater security might have prevented the attack, but he doesn't think that he personally could have stopped the attack. He does, however, think often about the incredible irony of his own situation: the injury that he sustained while defending Israel kept him from representing Israel in Munich, where he could have been killed.

The Olympic Games continued, even after this tragic event. Many people were stunned that the Munich Massacre did not bring the Games to a grinding halt. Mr. Behar suggests that the lesson to be learned is that life must go on. The memorials to this massacre in many parts of the world stand as a reminder of these fallen heroes. As American Jewish teenagers, we know that attacks on Jews are not new. We pray, every day, for our brothers in Israel. On 9/11, we woke up to a new threat of terrorism. We cannot forget what happened either on September 5, 1972 or on September 11, 2001, but we must also get on with our lives.

Editor's Note: There are many who feel the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has never adequately paid tribute to the slain Israeli athletes. During the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia, the local Australian committee organized its own memorial to the fallen Israeli Olympians.

Cory Nagelberg was one of the top-place winners in The Center for Sport and Judaism's 2004 "Sport and Jewish Life" essay contest.

Copyright 2004-2014 by The Center for Sport and Jewish Life.  All rights reserved.