Mass Funeral in Israel
At 1 p.m. local time on Sept. 7, 10 of the murdered Israeli athletes were repatriated in Israel on a special El Al airliner. (The body of the 11th athlete, David Berger, was flown back to Cleveland, Ohio, at the request of his family.) The Israeli government had organized a mass funeral on an airport runway in Lydda, just outside of Tel Aviv, the Israeli capital. Yigal Allon, Israel’s deputy prime minister, attended the ceremony in place of Prime Minister Golda Meir, who was attended to grief of her own: Meir’s 83-year-old sister, Shanah Korngold, had died the night before.
The athletes’ coffins were placed in open army command cars by Israeli Army pallbearers, then moved into a large square where a small platform surrounded by Israeli flags flying at half-mast had been set up. Foreign diplomats, rabbis, Catholic and Greek Orthodox priests flanked the platform, along with most ministers from the Israeli cabinet and military leaders, including Defense Minister Moshe Dayan.
As Terence Smith of The New York Times described the proceedings, “The victims’ immediate families and close relatives, many weeping uncontrollably, marched behind the command cars in a somber but disorganized procession. The sounds of their grief continued through the eulogies and prayers, which were occasionally drowned out by aircraft engines in the distance.[…]
“At one point a distraught, heavyset, bearded man began running through the crowds of relatives, shrieking at them, in Hebrew, ‘You’re all fools! Don’t you know you are Jews? They will kill you off one by one. Don’t just cry, do something! Attack them!’ A score of policemen quickly surrounded the man, but, rather than jostle him away from the ceremony, they sought to control him—putting their arms around him, giving him water, daubing his forehead with a cool cloth.”
The man continued to sob throughout the ceremony, at the end of which the command cars bearing the coffins drove out slowly, taking the different directions of the individual, private family funerals.
The Murdered Team Members
The 11 Israeli team members taken hostage and subsequently murdered by PLO terrorists were:
- Weightlifter Yossef Romano, 31years old
- Weightlifter David Berger, 28
- Weightlifter Ze'ev Friedman, 28
- Wrestler Eliezer Halfin, 24
- Wrestler Mark Slavin, 18
- Wrestling referee Yossef Gutfreund, age 40
- Wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg, 33
- Track coach Amitzur Shapira, 40
- Shooting coach Kehat Shorr, 53
- Fencing coach Andre Spitzer, 27
- Weightlifting judge Yakov Springer, 51.