Munich Families Still Mourn, 40 Years Later

Relatives Keep Memories of Slain Israeli Athletes Alive

By Nathan Jeffay and Naomi Zeveloff

Published July 23, 2012, issue of July 27, 2012.
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Shahar is very much her father’s daughter. She shares his adeptness for languages, explaining in perfect English that she never took lessons and instead taught herself by reading English books. Shahar studied mathematics because of her father’s interest in the subject; and she even followed his passion in deciding where to spend most of her teaching career: at the Navon gymnasium, in Tel Aviv, a sports and science school. “I’m sure it was because of my father — sports has always stayed very close to my heart,” she said.

courtesy of berger family

She retired last year, but for more than three decades Shahar has used her professional post to memorialize the Munich victims. The annual schoolwide sports contest at Navon is dedicated to them, and during exchange trips with German schools she gave talks about the massacre. Her son, Kehat, is named after her father; she also has a daughter, Adi.

In discussing the massacre, Shahar raised her voice only once: when recalling the Palestinian Authority’s praise of its perpetrators, such as the mastermind, Abu Daoud, whom P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas commended on his death, in 2010. “It makes me burn inside,” she said.

Despite this — and despite the Munich terrorists’ affiliation with Abbas’s Fatah movement — Shahar favors peace talks with the P.A. But she is skeptical about what they will yield. “When I think irrationally I think there is a chance,” she said. “When I think rationally I think there is no chance. They don’t want us here.”

Ilana Romano cuts a sharp contrast to the calm Shahar. “It’s very hard to interview. It’s like a flashback,” the widow of weightlifter Yossef Romano said in her Tel Aviv home. At another point, flustered, she stopped the interview to find her cigarettes in another room. For her, even seeing the emblem of the Olympics is painful. “It makes my blood drip,” she said.

Romano is on a mission. Shahar would like a minute’s silence for the Israeli victims to be observed in London, but she views the campaign for this as a worthy commemoration in itself, even if the International Olympic Committee continues to refuse. After all, an online petition has gathered more than 80,000 signatures; the U.S. Senate passed a resolution calling for a minute of silence, and prominent politicians in America, Canada, Australia and Britain have backed the call. “I think that’s the important thing — not the minute, but that everyone is talking about it, and that we didn’t let anyone forget about it,” she said.

Romano wants only concrete results.


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