Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Story Worth A Read...

Written By: Melissa Zeller

A couple weeks ago I recieved an email to get in touch with former Birthright participant Adriana Katzman to help her get more involved in the Jewish community. Going into the meeting, I simply thought we were going to discuss some different programs Adriana could be apart of or committees she could sit on. However, little did I know that this meeting would leave me as the listener. Adriana stole the spotlight...

Adriana (26 years old) worked at a bank for two years after completing univeristy. One day, a colleague of hers forwarded her an online job posting to work at RBC on the Olympic Torch Relay in the lead up to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. Since Adriana was truly passionate about sports and had always been a dedicated athlete she thought "what the hell" and applied for the job. After 6 rounds of long tedious interviews, Adriana got the job.

After completing the planning and organizing stages for this journey, Adriana had the opportunity to travel across the country to ensure that the Olympic Torch Relay went off without a hitch. The entire journey was 106 days, 45000 kms and invovled traveling through 1036 communitues. While Adriana encountered thousands of different people and heard all of their great stories, the last torchbearer of the entire relay, Karen, is truly responsible for impacting Adriana.

The 2010 Torch Relay

Even though Adriana heard thousands of different stories, she asked Karen how she was selected to carrying the Olympic Torch and this is her story...

Karen is Jewish, and a former Olympian. In 1972, she was a member of the Canadian Olympic team at the Munich Summer Games. Karen was 19, and a swimmer ready to compete in the 200-metre individual medley. She finished fourth in her heat, and 17th or 18th overall, she can't remember which. The memory of her exact standing has faded with time.
What has not faded from the 57-year-old's memory is what happened after her swim.
"With my event done, I went out that night with a group of other swimmers. There were four of us, and we had gone to the press building to watch the Canada-Russia hockey series. By the time we got back to the athletes' village, it was 2 a.m. or 3 a.m., and we didn't want to go through the main gate -- it was on the other side of the compound -- so we said, 'Let's just climb the chain link fence.' It was a different world then, and the security was really lax, almost non-existent, really. So we climbed the fence."
It was the morning of Sept. 4. And while the four Canadians were climbing, a group of men saw them and joined them. They were clearly not dressed as athletes, but neither Karen nor her three companions thought anything of it at the time. The young, unsuspecting group said nothing.
They did not report the men to authorities.
The next day, Karen awoke to the sound of helicopters overhead. She saw the drama unfold in the building across from her -- police on rooftops, camera crews everywhere, and armed men in balaclavas.
The gunmen were the men that climbed the fence with Karen and her companions, the men who murdered 11 Israeli athletes in the ensuing tragedy, were members of Black September, a militant group with ties to Yasser Arafat's Fatah organization. 
As noted, Adriana met countless people who made an impression on her, however, spending her last moments on the relay with Karen truly changed her life. It was hearing Karen's story that solidifed her dream of visiting Israel. Her experience on the torch relay allowed her to understand the significane of being Canadian but also left her with the desire to learn more about what it means to be Jewish.

Adriana during the Torch Relay

Adriana's dream of learning more about what it means to be Jewish was fulfilled when was granted the amazing opportuntiy to go on Birthright this past August.

Adriana in Israel

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