by Doug Ward

OXFORD, OHIO-For Americans, the "War on Terror" began on September 11, 2001, the date of the infamous attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But America's enemies in this ongoing conflict-radical Islamic terrorists-have been wreaking havoc around the world for many years now.


One man who knows about terrorism firsthand is Daniel Alon, one of the few surviving members of the Israeli Olympic team that competed in the 1972 Munich Summer Olympics. During the games in Munich, eleven of Alon's teammates were taken hostage and subsequently murdered by a Palestinian terrorist group called Black September. On November 9, 2006, in a lecture sponsored by Miami University Students for Israel, Alon told his story to an audience of students and faculty at Miami University.


Alon was born in Tel Aviv in 1945, the son of Jewish parents who had emigrated from Hungary. His father was a world-class fencer, and Daniel began to learn the sport when he was twelve. In 1972 he placed high enough in an international competition to qualify for the Olympics.


The 1972 Olympics marked the first time that the games had been held in Germany since the Nazi period. In the Berlin Olympics of 1936, the gold medalist in the saber competition was Endre Kabos, who like Daniel's father was a Hungarian Jew. (Kabos later spent several months in a Nazi labor camp before escaping and joining the Hungarian underground. He died later in the war, in 1944.) Alon hoped to achieve the kind of athletic success that Kabos had had in 1936. And with the other members of the Israeli contingent, he saw this Olympics as a symbol of brotherhood and peace, an indication that better times might lie ahead.


Daniel began his Olympic career on a high note, defeating a German champion. He won several more matches before losing a close 5-4 match to a fellow Jew, a fencer from Great Britain. It was a frustrating defeat, because he had led 4-0 before letting the lead slip away. But he was still thrilled just to have been able to compete in the Olympics.


Terrorists Attack

Security was not tight at the Olympic village in Munich. Germany didn't want to bring back memories of the Nazis or give the impression that it was still a police state. And so no one stopped the eight Palestinian terrorists, armed with machine guns and grenades, who entered the Olympic village at about 4:30 AM on September 5.


The Israeli team was staying in a building with five apartments. Coaches were in apartment 1, fencers and marksmen in apartment 2, wrestlers and weightlifters in apartment 3. The terrorists took eleven hostages from apartments 1 and 3. Two of the hostages, wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg and weightlifter Yossef Romano, fought back and were shot to death by the terrorists.


In apartment 2, Alon was awakened by the shots that killed Romano. The bullets were lodged in the wall of the room where he was sleeping. When the athletes in apartment 2 found out what had happened, they considered the possibility of having one of the marksmen use his Olympic rifle to shoot a terrorist standing guard outside apartment 1. But they wisely decided against it, not knowing how many terrorists there were and hoping to avoid the deaths of any more of their teammates. Instead, they managed to flee to safety a few hours later.


When Alon jumped from apartment 2, he looked back briefly. For a few seconds, his eyes met those of one of the terrorists. Then he ran to where German police were waiting nearby.


The terrorists demanded that 234 people who were in prison in Israel be released and given safe passage to Cairo. Israel refused to negotiate with Black September, but later that day Germany agreed to take the terrorists by helicopter to a nearby air base. From there they were to be flown to Cairo.


Germany had an ambush planned at the airbase. Snipers were stationed there, waiting to pick off the terrorists when they got off the helicopters. But the rescue plan failed. The snipers were only able to get five of the terrorists, giving the other three a chance to kill the nine remaining Israeli hostages.


Alon and the other surviving Israeli athletes then faced the task of collecting the belongings of their fallen teammates and returning home. They carried out this duty with heavy hearts. Several of the victims, including Daniel's friend and coach, Andre Spitzer, were young parents. Some had purchased toys and other presents to bring back to their families.


A Message for America

Alon and the other surviving team members arrived back in Israel on September 8, the eve of Rosh Hashanah. The High Holy Days were especially solemn that year as the athletes mourned the deaths of their teammates and struggled with their memories of what had happened in Germany.


After the traumatic events in Munich, Alon retired from competitive fencing. Twenty years later friends persuaded him to make a comeback. He began training again and won one more Israeli fencing championship before retiring for good. He has continued over the years to serve as a fencing coach. He noted with pride that his son has followed the family tradition and excelled at the sport, recently winning an Israeli championship of his own. Alon hopes that his son will one day compete in the Olympics.


Alon spoke little about his experiences in Munich until 2005, when the movie "Munich" brought the events of 1972 back to public attention. Then a Chabad rabbi in England invited him to come to Oxford University and tell his story. Since that time he has spoken at a number of campuses. He finds it difficult to talk about 1972, but he has become convinced of the importance of doing so. More young people need to hear about what happened, he said. The story of the massacre in Munich, like that of the Holocaust a generation earlier, is one not to be forgotten.


Alon confessed that he has no magic prescription for peace, but he hopes that peace will eventually be attained through tireless, patient effort. He concluded his talk with a message for the American people: "Thank you for your support. You are the only ones we trust. Don't give up. In the end we will have victory." Let us pray that America remembers and heeds Daniel Alon's heartfelt words.




File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.66.
12 Nov 2006, 14:41.