America's Jewish gymnastics star clinches Gold to the tune of 'Hava Nagila'

The International Olympic Committee, cowed by the threat of a boycott by Arab nations, refused to give a moment of silence in London’s opening ceremony to honor 11 Israeli Olympians murdered 40 years ago by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics.


“We feel that the Opening Ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident,” Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said Saturday.

But the IOC, quite sensibly, allowed a moment of remembrance in 2010 for an Olympic luger who died in practice before the Vancouver games and one for victims of Britain’s 7/7 bombing. The rebuff to Israelis was just the latest in a long line of refusals by the Olympics to acknowledge what happened in 1972:

During the early hours of September 5, 1972, eight armed Palestinian terrorists sneaked into the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany, stormed the sleeping quarters of the Israeli delegation, shot a wrestler and coach to death, and took another nine athletes and officials hostage. Twenty-one hours later, during a standoff on the tarmac of a nearby German military airport, one of the kidnappers blew up four of the Israeli hostages with a grenade, and the remaining five were executed by close-range machine gun fire.

Every four years, widows of the victims of this attack petition the IOC for recognition of their loss at the Opening Ceremony, but have been repeatedly rejected. The way they put it, the request is coming from “the wrong country and the wrong religion” to please the international community. There are several memorial events planned for the Olympians, but each with miniscule exposure compared to the Opening Ceremony. Shameful.


In that context, it was a special pleasure to watch Aly Raisman tumble her team to Olympic Gold in women’s gymnastics to a blasting, upbeat version of “Hava Nagila,” the Hebrew folk song and Bar Mitzvah favorite. Raisman, “a nice Jewish girl from Massachusetts,” as she’s affectionately described by the Israeli press is one of the Fab Five who together ended a 16-year drought for American women’s gymnastics atop the team podium Tuesday.

She and her family and coaches chose the song with purpose:

Raisman, of Needham, Mass., is trained by the Romanian couple, Mihai and Sylvia Brestyan, who coached the Israeli national team in the early 1990s and also is training world vault champion Alicia Sacramone. The coaches and Raisman’s mother selected “Hava Nagila” after several exhaustive late-night online searches.

Raisman, a recipient of the Pearl D. Mazor Outstanding Female Jewish High School Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award given out by the Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in New York, says she is proud to be using the Jewish song “because there aren’t too many Jewish elites out there.”

It’s also just a damn good song that gets the audience clapping and cheering along, which is another reason she chose it, Raisman said. Raisman is not the first gymnast to use the song, but she may be the first Jewish gymnast to use it, according to Haaretz, and certainly the first with such great results.


Here she is tearing it up in the qualifying round. I dare you not to clap. (Sorry, NBC inexplicably does not have video of Tuesday’s floor routines, but it’s the same routine. I’ll keep looking.) Click to watch:

Aly Raisman

Watching a strong, beautiful Jewish woman finish her last tumbling pass, triumphant, as the whole stadium clapped along to a Hebrew folk song of celebration was a great moment— a moving, joyous contrast to Munich and an example of the kind of cultural tribute that’s unstoppable in free people, no matter what the IOC says.

Congrats to all the Fab Five, following in the footsteps of 1996’s Magnificent Seven! Do yourself a favor and watch this nearly flawless vault by McKayla Maroney in the finals. Seriously, where are the deductions coming from?

Exit question (Allahpundit™): Did you know Kerri Strug is Jewish, too? Mazel tov, America!

And, because this post is my chance to gymnastics it up, here, please enjoy two flashbacks to ’96. Dominique Moceanu’s “Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which still makes me squeal, it’s so good:

And, Kerri’s legendary vault:

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David Strom 7:00 AM | May 18, 2024