Growing up in Israel in the 1970’s, there were 2 Esther’s in my life. There was, of course, Queen Esther that made her grand appearance once a year during the holiday of Purim. And then there was Esther Roth Shahamorov, a legendary athlete. Both women were heroes of mine.
Queen Esther of the Book of Esther showed tremendous bravery when she took a chance to change the mind of King Achashverosh. Under the guidance of Haman, he had taken the decision to kill the Jewish nation. It is the story of this brave and beautiful heroin that gives us one of the most cheerful holidays on the Jewish calendar – Purim.
Esther Roth Shahamorov was herself a heroin, having been an Olympic Track and Field contender at the Munich Olympics in 1972. Despite the horrible tragedy, she came home and continued to race.
Growing up in Israel during this period meant witnessing the beginning of what Israel is today – making a place for herself on the world map, innovating in sports, music, and technology.
In 1972, at just 24 years old and with 3 wars under her belt, the nation of Israel was looking for victory on more ‘normal’ battle fields. Esther Roth Shahamorov was our great hope.
Growing up in a religious school in a small Tel Aviv neighborhood, Esther proved herself to be a powerful young athlete. It was coach Amitzur Shapira that discovered her, training her to be one of the greatest athletes the young nation ever had.
At the age of 16, she was named Israel’s fastest runner. Se continued to prove her abilities, with the help of Shapira, at the Munich Olympics.
- On September 1, 1972, Esther set a new Israeli record in the 100 meter run and made it to the semi-finals.
- On September 4, 1972, Esther again qualified for the semi-finals in hurdles.
- On the morning of September 5, 1972m Amitzur Shapira and 10 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed by terrorists.
Esther returned home alone, thinking she would never run again. Her new coach and future husband, however, had a different plan. He convinced Esther to return to the track. 4 years later, on July 29, 1976 in Montreal Canada, Esther became the first and only Israeli athlete to run in the Olympic finals. She came in 6th place that year,
Both Esther’s had to overcome tremendous obstacles and with the loving support of their families – of Queen Esther’s Uncle Mordechai and Esther Roth Shahamorov’s husband Peter Roth – they brought pride to the Jewish people.
Peter Roth died in 2006 at the age of 57. Today, Esther is a physical education teacher in the city of Ra’anana in central Israel.
Thanks to Queen Esther, the Jewish people survived Haman’s hatred. And thanks to brave people like Esther Roth Shahamorov, the Israeli spirit survived the tragedy of the 1972 Munich Olympics.
When I think about survival of the Jewish people thanks to queen Ester, I also think about
the survival of the Israeli spirit after Munich 1972