On Oct. 18 one of five Israeli athletes who survived the Munich Massacre at the Olympics 40 years ago will speak in Portland.
Chabad of Oregon’s Benaroya Jewish Learning Academy will host former Olympic fencer Dan Alon at the Mittleman Jewish Community Center for an evening program.
Alon recently authored a book on his harrowing experience in Munich and its lasting effect on his life, titled Munich Memoir.
In the summer of 1972, Palestinian terrorist group Black September killed 11 Israelis who had travelled to Munich to participate in the Olympics.
The decision to bring Alon to Portland was prompted by the refusal of the International Olympic Committee to honor their memory at this year’s Olympic Games with a moment of silence.
“There are times when we are reminded that as Jews we sometimes stand alone and it is our own duty to preserve our memories. The recent decision by the IOC was one such reminder,” says Portland Rabbi Motti Wilhelm.
In 1972 tensions between Israelis and Palestinians were at an-all time high, but Alon and his fellow competitors knew that was not what the Olympics were about.
“It was a great time to be there,” Alon remembers of the Munich Olympics. “We were together – friendship – and we were only discussing sports. We were never talking about politics.”
“We had a good time together,” Alon recalls. That was until 4:30 am on Sept. 5 when everything changed.
“We were all asleep. Eight Palestinians attacked our building,” Alon says. “They went to apartment No. 1, and they caught all the coaches, and they killed two Israeli athletes. Then, they went out and went to No. 3.”
Alon was in apartment No. 2. He says he and four other teammates sat in petrified silence, listening for an hour as the terrorists took nine athletes hostage.
“We saw how they threw out the body of the wrestlers on the pavement,” Alon remembered.
“We took a chance, and we ran out,” Alon says. It was a choice he believes saved his life.
The hostage situation would end in a shootout with German authorities later that day. All nine hostages, along with five of their captors and one German police officer, were killed.
For more information on the Portland program, contact Wilhelm at 503-977-9947 or JLI@ChabadOregon.com.