SHOTS shattered the air, hostages were taken, the world turned upside down in an instant that forever taught people everywhere that terror knew no rules, not even the Olympic Games were safe from hate.
But for Dan Alon, an Israeli fencer who had dreams of returning with medals but instead returned with coffins of his teammates, the 1972 Munich Massacre (as it came to be called) was not the end, but the beginning of a journey.
Next month, that journey brings him to Nassau where Mr Alon will share his story and the lessons learned during a presentation open and free to the public at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort. The event, on Tuesday, March 10, is organised by the Nassau Jewish Community as part of a community outreach effort.
Three years ago, the group hosted a Schindler’s List survivor, drawing nearly 700 people to hear the story of personal strength in the face of atrocity. “In each of these cases, the survivor from Auschwitz who worked in Schindler’s factory and with Dan Alon, the lesson they want to share is that despite what others try to do to you, you have the inner strength to overcome,” said Rabbi Sholom Bluming.
“Once you reach that place of inner peace, you can share them and with the constant threat of terror that we face now with terrorist attacks in Paris, Denmark and other places part of everyday news, finding ways to join together to combat evil are more important than ever. Together through peace and unity we will help fight terrorism and together all the flags of the world will wave in peace.”
The story of the 1972 Olympics was memorialised in the 2005 Steven Spielberg movie, Munich, starring Daniel Craig. It details the incidents that began with a shoot-out at the airport in West Germany, Palestinians attacking the Israeli team of athletes, their coaches and families, the first time Israel had been targeted outside its borders. The massacre that took 14 lives, including nine Israeli hostages, was blamed on a group called Black September.
On that September 5 day, Mr Alon, who had begun fencing when he was 12, had been Israel’s highest hope. At 27, he was the country’s No1 in the sport and his hopes of claiming a medal were high when he headed to the Olympics. It was a dream cut short when Palestinian terrorists attacked the building in which the Israeli team was staying. After a miraculous escape, Mr Alon became one of the few survivors of the Israeli team.
Instead of the typical fanfare that greets Olympic athletes when they arrive home, Mr Alon returned to Israel with the coffins of his friends and teammates. Thus began his 40-year struggle to make sense of what happened and find a sense of peace once more. He eventually married and he and his wife, Adelle, have three children, including a son who followed in his footsteps in fencing.
But it has only been in recent years, after the release of the Spielberg movie, that he began sharing his story. The Munich attack “is a piece of history that shouldn’t be forgotten,” he says. In 2012, Alon released a book entitled Munich Memoir, co-authored by Carla Stockton, recounting his experiences and the impact on his life.
On Tuesday March 10 in the ballroom at the Melia Nassau Beach Resort, the movie Munich will be shown at 2.30 pm, also without charge, with Mr Alon’s presentation following at 6.30pm. For further information, e-mail Rabbi@JewishBahamas.com.