Israeli Olympian Yossef Romano Is Born in Libya

Yossef Romano, one of the eleven Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics is born on April 15, 1940 in Benghazi, Libya.  One of eleven children, Yossef makes aliyah with his family in 1946. Settling in Herzliya, the Romanos run a grocery store in the city for many years.

Romano meets his wife Ilana on the beach in Herzliya in 1965 and later serves in the IDF during the June 1967 Six-Day War.  Romano has a passion for sports and excels in Israel as a weightlifter, winning nine national championships in both the lightweight and middleweight divisions.  Training at the Hapoel Tel-Aviv Sports club, he represents Israel at the Weightlifting World Championship Games in 1965 in Iran and 1969 in Poland.  He is so dedicated to his craft that a member of Israel’s Olympic Committee recalls, “He was so crazy about sports that he lost two jobs because he spent more time training than working.” (“Israel’s Dead were the Country’s Hope, Time, 9/18/1972, Vol. 100 Issue 12, p30.)

Romano works as an interior decorator, but his dream is to represent Israel in the Olympic Games.  A father of three young girls, he tells his wife before departing for Munich that after the Olympics he will retire from competition.  The 1972 Olympic Games are the fifth Olympics that Israel  competes in but it marks the first time the country competes in weightlifting.  A preview of the Israeli Olympic team in the Jerusalem Post in August 1972 notes that, “Yossef Romano, competing in the middleweight division is especially good with the (weight) press.”

On the day of the weightlifting competition on August 31, 1972, Romano suffers a torn ligament in his knee and is unable to compete in the rest of the lifts.  It is decided that he will return to Israel on September 6, before the conclusion of the Olympics, to undergo surgery.  In the early morning of September 5, eight members of Black September, a Palestinian terrorist organization affiliated with Yasser Arafat’s Fatah, force their way into the apartment housing Romano and other members of the Olympic team.  Despite his injury, he is using crutches at the moment of attack, Romano flings himself at the terrorists and is about to pry a gun away from one of them before being shot and killed by another.  According to new information released in 2015, Romano’s body is then mutilated by the terrorists and left out in front of the remaining nine hostages.

The photo shows Romano lifting Olympic teammate Zelig Struch (a marksman) before the Opening Ceremonies of the 1972 Munich Olympics.  Photo Source: Alon, Dan and Stockton, Carla, Munich Memoir: Dan Alon’s Untold Story of Survival, Dapt’d, 2012, p.14.