A Minute for Munich
The Olympic Games are about sport and should not be politicised. And yet whenever diverse nations and fractious tongues are gathered together in peace and global brotherhood, the laying aside of mutual enmities is only made possible by grace, diplomacy, and sheer political will.
This Olympic Games marks the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich massacre, when Palestinian Arabs slaughtered 11 Israeli Jews, for no other reason than that they were Israeli Jews.
There has been a concerted campaign at the highest diplomatic levels addressed to the International Olympic Committee for the London Games to be preceded by a minute’s silence, in memory of the dead. The United States, Israel and Germany have all made formal requests. The Rt Hon John Bercow MP, Speaker of the House of Commons wrote: “I am pleased to send my support for the worldwide 1 minute silence taking place on 27 July for the eleven victims of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games massacre. I also wish to pay tribute to those who campaign so tirelessly for this terrible event to be commemorated.”
“The International Olympic Committee have a moral commitment to commemorate the 11 athletes, coaches and referees,” Israeli Olympic Committee secretary general Efraim Zinger said. “Not because they were Israelis, but because they were Olympians and were murdered during the Olympic Games.”
But the IOC do not feel that the opening ceremony is an appropriate arena to remember the dead.
This might have something to do with the fact that the Committee includes 46 Arab and Muslim members. No doubt if a minute’s silence were held, some representatives of Muslim Arab nations would exit the arena in protest. And then the commemoration would have ceased to have been about the dead, and become a reminder of an ancient religio-political enmity which is beyond mere diplomacy.
Today, Friday 27th July, heralds the 9th Av on the Hebrew calendar. It is a solemn and sombre day, marking the date when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC and by the by the Romans in AD 70. Not until 1948 could the Jews again call Israel their homeland and Jerusalem their capital. Some, of course, prefer to forget the Diaspora and the ensuing Holocaust. The slaughter of Israeli Olympians was simply a perpetuation of both.
In the absence of a minute’s silence in memory of the Munich victims, the Chief Rabbi has issued a prayer to be read in Synagogues today, the first Shabbat of the Olympic Games:
We, the members of this holy congregation,
Together with members of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth,
Join our prayers to the prayers of others throughout the world,
In remembrance of the eleven Israeli athletes
Brutally murdered in an act of terrorism,
At the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich,
Because they were Israelis,
Because they were Jews.
At this time in the Jewish year,
When we remember the destructions of our holy Temples,
And the many tragedies that have befallen our people throughout history,
We mourn their loss
And continue to protest against those who hate our people.
We pray to You, O God:
Comfort the families and friends of the Israeli athletes who continue to grieve
And grant eternal life to those so cruelly robbed of life on earth.
Just as we are united in grief,
Help us stay united in hope.
As we comfort one another under the shadow of death,
Help us strengthen one another in honouring life.
The Olympic message is one of peace, of harmony and of unity,
Teach us, Almighty God, to bring reconciliation and respect between faiths,
As we pray for the peace of Israel,
And for the peace of the world.
May this be Your will and let us say: Amen
אֲדוֹן הָעוֹלָמִים זְכוֹר אֶת נִשְמוֹת
דוד ברגר (David Berger)
יוסף גוטפרוינד (Yossef Gutfreund)
משה ויינברג (Moshe Weinberg)
אליעזר חלפין (Eliezer Halfin)
מרק סלבין (Mark Slavin)
יוסף רומנו (Yossef Romano)
קהת שור (Kehat Shorr)
אנדרי שפיצר (Andre Spitzer)
עמיצור שפירא (Amitzur Shapira)
יעקב שפּרינגר (Yakov Springer)
זאב פרידמן (Ze'ev Friedman)