‘I am devastated’: Australian mourns killed Israeli soldier whose father had saved countryman’s life at ’97 Maccabiah Games


SYDNEY (JTA) — Nearly 25 years ago, Tom Goldman and Baruch Ben-Yigal forged a relationship that became stronger as the years passed.

Ben-Yigal had saved an Australian athlete from drowning at the 1997 Maccabiah Games in Israel when the bridge across the Yarkon River collapsed as the Australian team headed to the opening ceremony. The disaster killed four and injured more than 60 Australian athletes and other team delegates.

This week, Ben-Yigal suffered a tragedy: His only child, Amit, a 21-year-old Israeli soldier, was killed during a raid on a Palestinian village in the West Bank when he was struck in the head with a large rock.

“Baruch has been an honorary member of the Australian team in every Maccabiah since 1997,” Goldman, then the president of Maccabi Australia and now the vice president of Maccabi World Union, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “In 2013, Amit helped out with the juniors also in an unofficial capacity. I am devastated.”

Goldman had flown to Israel from Sydney eight years ago to attend Amit’s bar mitzvah.

Ben-Yigal sent an iPhone message to Goldman with a photo of the two men and Amit, who called Goldman his “grandfather,” in his home saying “my life is finished. I love you Tommy.”

When an Israeli army officer visited Ben-Yigal’s home to tell him of his son’s death, Ben-Yigal asked him to contact Amit’s “grandfather” in Sydney.

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