Yossef Romano (1940-1972) was born in Benghazi, Libya to a family of traditional Italian Sephardic Jews. The family made aliyah when he was six years old and settled in Herzliya. Romano became an interior designer, but his real passion was weightlifting. He started to compete professionally, and soon set Israeli records in the lightweight and middleweight categories. He was Israel’s weightlifting champion for nine years straight, and also coached the Hapoel Tel Aviv team. His greatest dream came true in 1972 when he represented Israel at the Munich Olympics. He promised his family that it would be his last competition and he would retire from the sport for good when he came back home. Unfortunately, on the first day of competition, he injured a knee tendon and needed surgery. Romano decided to stay and support the rest of the Israeli Olympic team. The night before his flight, Palestinian terrorists stormed the Israeli compound and took the Israeli athletes hostage. Romano was a war hero who fought valiantly in the Six-Day War, and immediately attacked the terrorists. He managed to beat one down and disarm him, but was shot by another, before being brutally tortured and killed. His bravery gave five of the athletes time to escape, including (former Jew of the Week) Shaul Ladany. The remaining 11 were all murdered by the terrorists during the botched rescue attempt. Romano’s wife, Ilana Romano, campaigned for years to have the International Olympic Committee formally honour the victims, and her request for a moment of silence at the 2012 Olympics was denied. She did manage to get the IOC to contribute $250,000 towards a memorial. This week marks the 51st anniversary of the Munich Massacre.
Words of the Week
The Jew is that sacred being who has brought down from heaven an everlasting fire and has illumined with it the entire world. He is the religious source, spring and fountain out of which all of the rest of the peoples have drawn their beliefs and their religions. The Jew is the pioneer of liberty… – Leo Tolstoy
Shimon ibn Lavi (1486-1585) was born in Spain and exiled with his family during the Spanish Expulsion of 1492. The family settled in Fez, Morocco, where Lavi studied to become a rabbi. He then sought to make aliyah to the Holy Land, but was kidnapped along the way near Tripoli by Arab brigands. After being ransomed, he found the Tripoli Jewish community in need of a rabbi so he stayed there. It was Lavi who opened the city’s first yeshivas, established a beit din, and went on to make the city one of the largest Jewish communities in North Africa. He is often credited with being the “father of Tripoli Jews”. Rabbi Lavi was the community’s official representative to the government, and served as the Ottoman governor’s personal physician. He was also a major Kabbalist, alchemist, and mystic. In fact, he wrote the popular song “Bar Yochai”, in honour of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai whose teachings would become the Zohar (the primary “textbook” of Kabbalah) and who is celebrated on Lag b’Omer. Lavi wrote a commentary on the Zohar called Ketem Paz, as well as a dictionary translating some of the Zohar’s most cryptic words. He was widely known as a miracle worker, and was revered by Jews and Muslims alike (the latter refer to him as “Ibn Limam”), with his tomb serving as a major pilgrimage site in Libya.
One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.
– Carl Sagan