A modest crowd gathered by the 15th Maccabiah Bridge in Hayarkon Park on Friday morning to mark the 10th anniversary of the Maccabiah bridge disaster, in which Australian Maccabiah team members Greg Small, Elizabeth Sawicki, Yetty Bennett and Warren Zines were killed, and more than 60 others were injured.
Australia was the second team to cross the bridge to the opening ceremony of the 1997 15th Maccabiah Games when it collapsed, plunging team members into the polluted water of theYarkon River.
The ceremony was the initiative of Phillip Foxman, director and founder of Clean Up Israel - a community based environmental program - and a member of the Jewish Australian community, and planned by Frank Stein of the Zionist Federation of Australia.
No government officials were invited to the ceremony.
Australian Ambassador James Larson told the gathering of some 50 friends, officials and members of the Maccabi World Union youth movement, "It's hard to comprehend the tragedy, which occurred at this location." and commented on the cleaner water. Maccabi World Union deputy director Rabbi Carlos Tapiero recited Kaddish. Others present read letters from the families of the victims and laid wreaths.
The ceremony was also attended by MWU executive director Eyal Tiberger and the Israeli parents-in-law of Warren Zines.
"It's very nice that in a country like this, which is full of memorials for fallen soldiers, this tragedy was commemorated. Warren's family in Australia have let go of their anger towards Israel and his parents have since visited the country. There is no anger, just a painful memory and an understanding that these sorts of tragedies are somehow part of the Israeli character," said Mordechai Pinto, Warren's father-in-law.
"Sadly this country always seems to be commemorating tragedies. This week marks the anniversary of the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War. May it be that we have no need to introduce new commemorations, and have only the need to honour those of the past."
"I was one of the last people to see Warren alive. In his final days he wasn't bitter, just surprised and very disappointed that an event that he had so anticipated had such a cruel surprise in store. He wanted to live, but the waters of the Yarkon were too much for him."
After the ceremony, a couple of joggers stopped on the sturdy bridge that now stands in place of the previous one to comment on the tragedy and exchange words with Frank Stein.
Hayim Malka, a mountain running trainer, said: "Had there been any government officials here I would have disrupted the ceremony. I worked as a sports coordinator at the '97 Maccabiah and I also came in third in the half-Marathon. I was among the first rescuers to enter the water. I remember how people warned me not to enter the water, the typical Israeli, the ugly Israeli that has become such a substantial part of this country's demographic. These government officials, protected in their offices, are parasites, evil people who will get what they have coming to them by fate."