20th commemoration of the Maccabiah bridge collapse

July 6, 2017 Agencies
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In 1997, Amanda Montag was nine weeks pregnant with daughter Jemima when she fell into the Yarkon River following the collapse a makeshift bridge carrying the Australian contingent. Four athletes lost their lives.

Photo: Julie Kerbel

20 years on, Jemima will be bearing Maccabi Australia’s flag into the Opening Ceremony.

While we never forget, the legacy of our fallen 1997 teammates lives on as we return to Israel and create new memories every Maccabiah Games, competing with their memory in our hearts.

’20 years, you are forever in our hearts’

The slogan in front of us on the stage at Ramat Gan stadium today summed up exactly why Tuesday’s memorial, at the venue of the 1997 Opening Ceremony, is such an important and significant date on Maccabi’s calendar.

We will never forget our fallen teammates, and what happened at the 15th Games, which inflicted such unnecessary pain on the Bennett, Sawicki, Small and Zines families.

Jemima stares into the Yarkon            Photo: Julie Kerbel

It is testament to their strength and resilience that representatives from all four families were with us in Ramat Gan, where they lit memorial candles. Josh Small, son of Greg, said Kaddish, while Shelly Jackson, daughter of Warren Zines, gave a poignant and powerful speech, including opening up on the ‘roller coaster’ of emotions the family has experienced with Joshua’s selection in our youth football side.

Warren Zines – lost his life

The Zines family has retained a deep connection to Israel, and when Joshua was selected, her mantra was ‘ldor vdor’ – ‘from generation to generation’.

‘We had tears of joy for Josh, and tears of sadness for my father,’ she said, proud that her son can complete her father’s journey.

The 600 in attendance watched patiently and respectfully in the stifling heat through a series of speeches, after taking a solemn walk over the new bridge to lay flowers at the memorial.

It was a time to reflect and remember, especially for some of our 1997 alumni who are with us again in 2017.

Here are some of their reflections:

Phil Wolanski:

“It brings back a lot of memories of a very tragic time. You can feel the pain and the fear and the noises. It all of a sudden just comes rushing back.”

“This sort of commemoration is just absolutely critical to honour the victims for their families and for the survivors.”

Adam Joseph:

Yetti Bennett – lost her life

“It was a truly emotional service. It was chilling walking over the bridge earlier and then sitting there for the ceremony it was heart wrenching.”

Anthony Goodridge:

“Coming back over the bridge, being here, seeing the stadium it’s tough. It’s a very difficult time every time we do it.”

Greg Small – lost his life

“It’s really important that the juniors understand why we’re here. I’d love for our juniors to understand that it’s hard to come back every time but that we keep doing so in honour of the victims.”

Lisa Borowick:

“I think it’s amazing that so many of the victims families were here. Hopefully one day Elizabeth Sawicki’s grandchildren who play sport can make it here too so we can let them know how much we miss their grandmother. We miss all of them. They were very special people.”

MAI president Barry Smorgon:

‘Nothing can change the events of 20 years ago & the heart-ache that has been suffered by so many, however, in this  collaboration between Maccabi  Australia and Maccabi World Union , we hope that this service may bring some degree of closure to those most affected.’

Elizabeth Sawicki – lost her life

Australia Head of Delegation Tom York:

‘The venue might be different, but the emotion remains the same. We will march representing our community, our history, our families, our tradition and our faith.

But we will also be carrying the memory of those we lost to soon and whose memory we will continue to honour as it lives on in perpetuity.’



This report prepared by Maccabi Australia



3 Responses to “20th commemoration of the Maccabiah bridge collapse”
  1. Ron Burdo says:

    They did not “find their death” as the sign says, they were killed by the corrupt Israeli organisers.

    It was not an accident, it was criminal negligence.

    • adrian jackson says:

      Spot on Ron Burdo.

      Has anyone responsible for this incompetence been arrested and gaoled?

      • Ron Burdo says:

        From Wikipedia:

        Based on the findings of the Dotan and police investigations, Israel’s attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein brought criminal charges against Eyal, Mishori, Karagula, Ben-Ezra, and Bar-Ilan for causing death by negligence and for building without proper permits. On March 15, 1998 in Tel Aviv Magistrate Court all five pleaded not guilty. Final arguments in the trial were presented in October 1999.
        On the 17th of April 2000, the three-judge panel of the court found all five defendants guilty of causing death by negligence. The defendants were sentenced on the 5th of June, 2000. Bar-Ilan was sentenced to one year and nine months in prison, plus a suspended sentence of 21 months. Ben-Ezra and Kargula were given 15-months in prison, plus suspended sentences of two years. Mishori served nine months in prison, plus a suspended sentence of 15 months. Eyal was sentenced to six months’ community service.

        That was the value of lives of 4 Australian Jews and the health of many others. 15 to 21 months in jail, or 6 months community service.

        Remember that when the Israelis ask you do donate your hard-earned money.

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