Members of three of the four families who suffered losses in the 1997 Maccabiah bridge disaster will attend a memorial ceremony service for the victims today on the banks of the Yarkon River.
Four Australians were killed and 70 others were injured when a bridge collapsed during the opening ceremony of the 15th Maccabiah eight years ago. Today's ceremony, due to take place at 8:30 this morning, will be attended by much of the 520-strong Australian delegation to the games and representatives of Maccabi World Union, which invited the bereaved families to attend this year's games. Australian Ambassador to Israel Tim George and several senior Israeli politicians and officials are also expected to attend the service, which will include the dedication of a new permanent bridge, which crosses the Yarkon River close to the site of the tragedy, plus the unveiling of a memorial to those who died.
Mark Bennett, who lost his mother Yetty Bennett in the disaster, spoke to Haaretz yesterday after he landing here from Sydney. "I'm as ready as I can be for tomorrow's ceremony. It's good to be in Israel so far," he said.
Bennett is in Israel together with his brother Jeff and sister Ilana. Suzanne Small, who lost her husband Greg in the tragedy, is here with her two children, as are the three children of Warren Zines, who was also killed, along with their families and their mother, Lynne.
Australia is bringing its largest-ever squad to the games. However, none of the Australian competitors will stay at the Maccabiah Village in Ramat Gan, because of Maccabi Australia's refusal to put its athletes into the care of Yoram Eyal, the site's manager, who was found guilty of negligence in organizing the 1997 games and performed six months of community service for his role in the disaster. Last month, the president of the Australian Zionist Federation, Ron Weiser, told Haaretz that the Australians also object to his reinstatement as a member of the MWU executive - all other matters regarding the disaster have been dealt with to their satisfaction, including compensation for victims and their families and the establishment of a Knesset committee to lay down regulations for future public events in Israel.Last month, Eyal announced he would not be present in the presidential box, which athletes salute during the opening ceremony march.
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