“We can’t stop someone from making a living”…Maccabi

July 18, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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Maccabi Australia has responded to an article on the Israeli newspaper Haaretz’s web site in which Australian communal leaders and family members of the four athletes who lost their lives in the 1997 bridge collapse described the continuing employment of a man found guilty for the part he played in the tragedy as being “disgraceful”, “astounding” and “inconceivable”.

Warren Zines - lost his life

Warren Zines – lost his life

Yetti Bennett - lost her life

Yetti Bennett – lost her life

Yoram Eyal, the chairman of the organising committee of the ill-fated Games, was sentenced to six months’ community service . Following this he was appointed general manager of the Kfar Maccabiah…the nerve centre of Maccabi World Union, the Maccabiah which houses a large hotel in its expansive complex in Ramat Gan. Maccabi Australia president Lisa Borowick told J-Wire after reading the Haaretz article. “We can’t stop someone from earning a living. It seems they are playing a broken record. Why can’t they focus on honoring those who lost their lives as did at the memorial service held earlier this week…in four years’ time at the next Maccabiah, no doubt we will hear it again. The focus should today be on honoring the memories of the those who so tragically lost their lives.”

But in Australia, the criticism of Eyal’s employment  and the appointment of Ronald Bakalarz as current chairman of the board of the Maccabi Village after he had succumbed to three years of pf pressure  and “an ultimatum by the Knesset enquiry” by resigning in 2000, has left a sour taste with leaders and families of the victims.

Executive Director of The Executive Council of Australian Jewry Peter Wertheim told J-Wire: “The loss of life and injuries caused by the Maccabiah Bridge collapse traumatised the Australian Jewish community and left psychological scars that have still not fully healed.  It is incredible that those who were found by the Israeli courts to be chiefly responsible for the tragedy have been given new positions of responsibility in Kfar HaMaccabiah.  The Maccabi World Union is thereby causing further distress to the families of the victims and reopening old wounds. It is hard to believe that a Jewish organisation would behave with such callous disregard for the value of human life.”

President of the Zionist Federation of Australia, Philip Chester added: “I find the situation insensitive. Given how traumatic the bridge disaster had been for Australian Jewry and particularly given how significant a participant Australia has been and continues to be at the Maccabiah games, it is completely inappropriate and insensitive for Maccabi officials who were found by an Israeli court to have borne responsibility for the bridge collapse to still be playing an important role in the organisation.”.

A former president of the ZFA Ron Weiser told Haaretz: “The problem is that Eyal did stand down from his then job in connection to the Maccabiah as did Bakalarz and they have not returned to their positions. The moral issue is that they stuck to the letter of the law but not what we thought would be the full ramifications of the intent.”

In 1997, a bridge was specially constructed to allow the Australian contingent to cross the Yarkon River on its way to the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah in the National Stadium in Ramat Gan. The bridge collapsed. The waters of the river were highly polluted causing death and long term illness.

Read what the families had to say…

Elizabeth Sawicki - lost her life

Elizabeth Sawicki – lost her life

Read the Haaretz article here

Greg Small - lost his life

Greg Small – lost his life



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