Study Guide

Olympics Books Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team

By Various Authors

Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team

Don't Mess with The Zohan

If you've ever wanted to read a book that combines a tense tale about murder, international intrigue, and revenge with the patriotic high you get from watching your country win the gold, then Vengeance is the book for you.

The story's about "Avner," a spy working for Mossad (the Israeli secret service agency) in the early 1970's, hunting down the Black September terrorists who slaughtered eleven of Israel's Olympic athletes at the Munich games in 1972.

Wait. What?

Backstory time: the Black September terrorists were a faction of the PLO, or the Palestine Liberation Organization, who organized a coordinated attack against the Israeli athletes in order to try and compel their nation to release some 236 jailed Palestinians. Unfortunately, this kidnapping attempt turned into a savage attack on some athletes and coaches who had just returned to their rooms in the Olympic Village after a pleasant night on the town.

The subsequent negotiating done by the German government led to a disastrous rescue attempt, and ultimately six Israeli coaches and five athletes died. (For a brief description of the events, along with a gallery of photos of the negotiations that went down: check out Time's coverage.)

Our book opens its prologue by describing the Munich Massacre in such vivid detail it plays out like a Jason Bourne fight scene.

All of this is important, though, because it sets the stage for Avner and his extraordinary mission. According to George Jonas, the author of Vengeance, "Avner" is the pseudonym chosen by his source, who was the Mossad agent responsible for leading a team of five men to hunt down and kill those associated with planning and carrying out the Munich Olympic attack.

That's right: he's insinuating that the Israeli government secretly funded and supported Israeli assassins in order to get vengeance on the PLO. This book is the result of hours of clandestine interviews with this source and several others, and Jonas pieces it all together to create one of the most compelling true history novels of all time.

Despite some controversy about the unverifiable nature of this "true" history, Vengeance is an incredible story about real people who did some incredible—and morally questionable—things in service to their country.

The best, meatiest parts of the book come towards the end, as each agent finds it harder and harder to justify their mission, and they begin questioning if what they're doing isn't an act of terrorism equal to the one they were trying to avenge.