Aly Raisman won two gold medals and one bronze in the Olympics gymnastics competition.
The 18-year-old American athlete probably should get another medal from Israel for her determination to remember the 11 Israeli athletes mowed down in the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
The widow of one of the murdered Israeli athletes, Ankie Spitzer, had tried to get the London Olympics committee to have a moment of silence for those murdered in Munich. The Olympics authorities turned Ms. Spitzer down. For many, the music for Aly Raisman’s gold medal floor routine in London became a tribute to the victims of the Munich tragedy.
That music was an old folk song called “Hava Nagila” usually sung at Jewish weddings and bar or bat mitzvah celebrations for teenagers. The Hebrew words translate to: “Let’s rejoice…let’s sing and be happy…Awake brothers with a happy heart…”
She told the New York Post: “I am Jewish, that’s why I wanted that floor music. I wanted something the crowd could clap to, especially being here in London.”
Forty years ago there was little for Israelis or Jews to rejoice about after, about 4 a.m., eight Palestinian terrorists from the group called Black September invaded the Olympic Village. They killed some Israelis and took others hostage. Then, after a standoff lasting many hours, there was a wild gun battle at the airport. The death toll stood at: 11 Israelis, 5 Palestinians and one German police officer.
A widow of Munich, Ilana Romano, related to a gathering organized by Israel’s Olympic committee how she had asked Jacques Rogge, the IOC president, if any other nation’s athletes had been killed, “would you have kept quiet?” She said he replied that this was a “very difficult question.”
Ms. Romano said this had “hurt and offended” her and: “One could feel that discrimination in the air.”
Yet the Palestinian Authority wrote the Olympic Committee to thank officials for denying the moment of silence to honor the murdered Israeli athletes. A letter from the Palestinian Olympic Committee praised the decision, declaring: “Sports are meant for peace, not for racism…sports are a bridge to love, interconnections and spreading of peace among nations; it must not be a cause of division and spreading of racism.”
Abe Foxman, leader of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke out strongly in praise of Aly Raisman. He told me: “She is a remarkable young woman who stood up for what she believed was right. The musical rendition of a classic Jewish song during her performance showed she knows who she is and she courageously enhances the true spirit of the Olympics, resisting those who are resistant to this Jewish tragedy. Olympic officials seem to be ignoring the dimensions of what happened 40 years ago.
“Children and grandchildren of the victims are still alive. It appears that the Olympic authorities are succumbing to blackmail by denying these survivors a chance to commemorate the sacrifice of their fathers and forefathers.”
When the bloody massacre at Munich occurred, Aly Raisman wasn’t even alive. Loyalty, commitment to ideals -- if these are worthy principles, this gold medal winner deserves not only our admiration but our deepest respect.
It was a dramatic moment that should not be forgotten.