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Munich memorial provides comfort but no ‘moment of silence’

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LONDON – “And if suddenly, rising from the darkness over our heads, the light of a star shines. All that we ask for, let it be.”

These are the words of the Hebrew song “Lu-Yehi,” or “Let It Be.” In a powerful moment during the official Munich Memorial on Monday, a packed audience at Guildhall joined in singing and honoring the 11 victims of the 1972 Munich Games.

High school members of the Israel Scouts (Tzofim) Friendship Caravan traveled from Israel and led the audience in singing while a group of 11 dignitaries, including Boris Johnson, mayor of London, lit 11 candles.

“It’s a great honor to be here in this position,” said scout Roey Vald said.

“We’ve grown up hearing about it (Munich),” fellow scout Alon Vesly added.

Among the crowd on the 40th anniversary of the tragedy: Munich widow Ankie Spitzer. “Our loved ones came home in coffins,” she said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and U.K. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg also attended. “The world will never know the Olympic glory they could have achieved,” Clegg said.

Ambassadors at the ceremony read messages from President Barack Obama and the Prince of Wales.

The victims’ names were read dozens of times by speakers Monday. The audience joined in for the traditional Mourners’ Kaddish, a Jewish prayer said at funerals and memorials.

Their memorial shed light on an otherwise dark event in Olympic and world history.

During the second week of the ’72 Games, the Palestinian terrorist group Black September ambushed Israeli coaches and athletes at their lodgings in the Olympic Village. They were taken hostage and later murdered.

Although everyone in the auditorium stood for one minute of silence at the beginning of the service, it wasn’t the moment mourners of the Munich massacre believe they deserve.

Since London’s bid for the 2012 games was accepted, British Jews and Jews around the world lobbied for a moment of silence during the Opening Ceremony. It didn’t happen.

Esmond Rosen is the regional development manager of the Jewish Volunteer Network. JVN and other groups such as the London Jewish Forum and Jewish Leadership Council are part of the Jewish Committee for the London Games (JCLG). The groups came together to plan commemorative efforts for the “Munich 11.”

“It’s important that people do remember and honor those who were massacred,” Rosen said.

But the International Olympic Committee declined to honor the fallen with an official moment of silence every Olympics since Munich.

Many believe the IOC wants to remain neutral. But there have been acknowledgements of tragedies at other Olympic Games.

At the opening ceremony for these games, a choreographed dance and song honored the victims of the London terrorist attack July 7, 2005.

There was no mention of Munich.

“People say, ‘There was an honoring of 9/11, there was an honoring of 7/7 … they have done that, so therefore why don’t they do it when it’s Jewish?’” Rosen said.

Said Debbie Usiskin, a Jewish Londoner, “You could have done the bare minimum, honor all athletes that have died in the course of the games if you don’t want to get political. It wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

A 2010 petition started by the Rockland Jewish Community Center in New York and sponsored by Spitzer has received worldwide attention. It asked the IOC to recognize the 11 victims and claimed no religious or political intent.

“Our call was heard all over the world,” Spitzer said at the memorial. “Only the IOC remains deaf and blind.”

The IOC has offered no official explanation, but IOC President Jacques Rogge spoke at the ceremony.

“We are here to speak with one voice against terrorism,” Rogge said.

Not enough, said Spitzer.

Shame on you IOC!” she said.

The IOC upgraded security at Olympic Games after Munich, and no major incidents have occurred since.

“Every host country must work around the clock to make sure history is never repeated,” Clegg said.

Spitzer has vowed to never stop working to preserve the victims’ memory.

“We will be back because until we hear the words you need to say because you (the IOC) owe it to them,” she said.