The days are getting shorter, the air is cooler. Leaves are blowing in the wind and wandering birds fly high above, looking for something. The Days of Awe surround us; they fill our hearts and souls with prayers, exaltation and hope. The twelfth Hebrew month of Elul will end in two days and clear the way for a new and what we hope will be a wonderful year.
For 11 Israeli families, and for many more in Israel and around the Jewish world, today is a day of sorrow. Forty years ago, in 1972, the XXth Olympic Games were held in Munich, Germany. The atmosphere leading up to the Games was filled with tension as they were the first to be held in Germany since the Nazis hosted the Games in 1936. The Israeli athletes and their trainers were especially nervous; many had family members who had been murdered during the Holocaust or were themselves Holocaust survivors.
It was today, on the twenty-seventh of Elul, that nine out of the eleven Israeli victims were killed.
The Munich massacre was a terrorist attack carried out by eight members of Black September, a group affiliated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). They demanded the release of 234 prisoners from Israeli prisons and two from German prisons. The terrorists killed two members of the Israeli Olympic team and then took nine others hostage. The situation ended with a huge gunfight, which left five of the terrorists and all of the nine hostages dead.
Three terrorists survived the attack and were taken into custody. Less than two months later, they were released by the German government after two other Black September members hijacked a plane and threatened to blow it up unless the three were released.
Following the massacre, the Israeli government organized retaliation against Black September called Operation Wrath of God, and tracked down and killed many of perpetrators. The month of Elul, also known as the month of Mercy and Forgiveness, had no mercy for the 11 Israeli victims. These innocent athletes marched proudly at the Opening Ceremonies, waving the Israeli flag. They were murdered for that exact reason-that they were Jews and Israelis.
Ironically enough, 21 years later, Israel and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in Washington on the same date. The Oslo agreement basically said that Israel would withdraw from the territories of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip to allow the establishment of a Palestinian Authority for self-government for an interim period until permanent arrangements would be established.
.אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ שְׁמַע קוֹלֵנוּ חוּס וְרַחֵם עָלֵינוּ”
.אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ קַבֵּל בְּרַחֲמִים וּבְרָצוֹן אֶת תְּפִלָּתֵנוּ
“.אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ חַדֵּשׁ עָלֵינוּ שָׁנָה טוֹבָה
“Lord our God, Hear our voice, pity and be compassionate to us, and accept with compassion and favor our prayer. Lord our God, bless this year.”
May 5773 be blessed. May Israel be noted for its great wonders and achievements, and may peace come upon us and the entire world, Amen.
Shanah Tova and Shabbat Shalom
Leah Garber , Vice President, JCC Association Israel Office