May 30 marks 40 years since deadly attack in Israelcomment (0)
June 14, 2012
The day was May 30, 1972. A group of Puerto Rican Christians, eager to begin their biblical pilgrimage in the Holy Land, had just landed at Lod Airport (now known as Ben Gurion Airport) near Tel Aviv, Israel.
As the group of about 65 waited to collect their suitcases in the Arrivals Hall near the luggage carousels, three Japanese men suddenly unleashed a barrage of hand grenades and bullets into the waiting crowd.
The terrorists, who had arrived on the same Air France flight as the Puerto Rican group according to some accounts, were members of the Japanese Red Army. The men had concealed the weapons in their luggage, and once they received their bags they opened fire.
Many reports about the 1972 attack say the men were enlisted by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, director of Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center), said in a May 28, 2012, article in The Jerusalem Post detailing the attack’s history that the PFLP first wanted to hijack an El Al Airlines plane, but when they realized that would not be possible, they planned to kill Israelis in a terror attack.
The Puerto Rican tourists, who were allegedly standing closest to the terrorists, lost 17 people from their group that day. Also killed were eight Israelis and one Canadian. A total of 26 people were killed and dozens more were injured and sent to area hospitals.
“There were so many injuries [and] people were taken to hospitals everywhere, so one family member didn’t know where another was,” recounted Pat Terry, an Alabama Baptist who was serving in Israel that summer through a Baptist Student Union (now Baptist Campus Ministries) missions team.
Norman Lytle, director of Terry’s missions team and a missionary with the Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) living on the Mount of Olives at the time with his family, was asked to deliver a eulogy on the tarmac before the bodies of the 17 Puerto Rican tourists were transferred home on a U.S. Air Force plane.
Lytle recalled reading text from Romans 8:21–39 during his portion of the eulogy.
“Every time I’ve read that Scripture since then, the image in my mind is standing in front of that group of people,” he said.
In 2006, Puerto Rico’s government declared May 30 “Lod Massacre Remembrance Day.”
This May marked the 40th anniversary of the attack, and a special event was held May 30 in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to honor both the victims and survivors (see story, page 13).
During this time of remembrance, a memorial was dedicated with the names of the Lod Massacre victims. One area of this memorial is inscribed with the message: “The memory of these blessed souls remains alive in the hearts of the survivors and in the collective memory of both nations, Puerto Rico and Israel.”
(TAB, other reports contributed)