One month in, a national Day of Mourning
and of remembering the hostages, who are in a hell none of us can imagine
It was Yom HaZikaron, Memorial Day for Fallen soldiers, some twenty-five years ago when we first got here. I was flipping channels, and came upon what was then Channel 3. Crossing the screen, in a slow, relentless parade of names, were the approximately 19,000 women and men who had died in battles over this country.
One by one, in the order of the date on which they fell, the screen showed their rank, their name, the Hebrew date of their death, and then secular date. It takes a full 24 hours for all the names to appear.
Our daughter was 12 years old that year. She happened into the living room where I was watching TV, and sat beside me for a while. In silence, we just stared at the screen as name after name after name after name appeared for a few seconds. Eventually, though, it was time for her to go to bed. I told her I’d tuck her in.
As we walked out of the living room, she said “Abba, you left the TV on.” To which I asked, “On whose name should we turn it off?”
That exchange, which I hope was less harsh than its recounting intimates, has stuck with me for a quarter of a century. So to this day, every year on Yom HaZikaron, I set one of the TV’s to the channel that displays the list, making sure that the “automatic off” option is disabled, and leave the TV on for twenty-four hours. The names pass slightly less slowly now, as the number is now closer to 25,000.
Next year, it will be higher. Much higher.
Tragically, listing names is something of which this country has made an art form.
Today, one month to the day since the Shabbat morning from which this country has not even begun to recover, has been declared a national day of mourning. Over the next few hours, there will be ceremonies in most major cities, including a national ceremony in Tel Aviv. The video at the top of this page has been prepared for those ceremonies, and publicly released. It’s the names of the 1400 (1500? more?) people killed on October 7. There’s no sound.
You’re not going to watch the whole hour and a half, obviously. You could beam it up to your TV or you could just watch for a while. Every single one of those names was an entire world.
It’s an unbearable list of worlds.
Tonight is also about the hostages, whose families are obviously living a hell none of us can imagine. Not long ago, the Israel Opera released this video, filmed in an empty auditorium—the significance of that emptiness is obvious.
The video is making its way around Israeli social media. It needs no commentary.
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Kan TV, Channel 12 here, has prepared a different listing of all the names. (Those without an emblem at the bottom right were outright civilians. Those with an emblem were either army or police who showed up to battle the terrorists.)
It was but a small news item yesterday when it was reported that the IDF is stocking up on winter equipment for the soldiers. The point was one that we’d all thought about but hadn’t focused on… this isn’t nearly over. The dread and the worry of the family and friends of almost half a million women and men now serving (170,000 standing army and 350,000 reservists) is going to continue—perhaps for a long, long time.
There’s really not much to say. Which is, perhaps, why the top and bottom videos are silent.
Given how word-obsessed the Jewish tradition, it’s strange, this silence. But it’s an ancient Jewish reaction. For though we revere words, we also know their limitations. After the deaths of his two sons, the Torah relates, וידום אהרון, “And Aaron was silent” (Lev. 10:3).
So, too, are we.
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We’ve delayed all the podcasts that were ready to go, because the people whose stories they tell deserve to tell them when we all have the bandwidth to hear. Hopefully, that will return some day.
In the interim, we’ll post as possible. Here in Israel, there are non-stop funerals to go to, shiva homes to visit, grandchildren to help care for while sons and daughters are in the army, so we’ll see.
Schedules are the least of our worries.
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