> Israel > Israel Diary


May 9, 2009 | by Sherri Lederman Mandell

Perhaps we fear that by remembering our losses, we'll be unable to move forward.

Another terror attack. For one day or two, the victims will be remembered nationally. And then they will fall from our memory.

Israelis are not encouraged to remember. We have our days of remembrance, but we as a society are commanded to march on, clean up, and above all, go on. I suppose we have to. But, as a result, too many of our victims are forgotten.

We can learn a lesson here from the Palestinians, who are much more relentless about remembering their dead. Though we may argue with who killed Mohamed al-Dura, or the cynical use to which his death has been put, he is not forgotten. The Arabs continue to immortalize him, with his face on postage stamps, his name on a street in Baghdad, and a park in Morocco named after him.

The murder of the Ramallah lynch victims, killed in cold blood by a mob of Palestinian killers, was also televised, yet few Israelis remember their names.

I don't mean to say that we should sensationalize the deaths of the victims, or manipulate them for world opinion, like the Palestinians do so well. I am talking about the pure act of remembering.

The teacher thought my son should be in school, not home tending his psychic wounds.

Children are taught not to remember. My 13-year-old son's teacher called the day before his brother Koby's yahrtzeit to ask why he wasn't in school that day. Never mind that I'd had a personal conference with the teacher to explain to him that this was a difficult time of year for all of us (Koby and his friend Yosef were brutally murdered by Palestinians) and he should be aware of the special circumstances. Never mind that the teacher knew we were all visiting the cemetery that day. The teacher thought my son should be in school, not home tending his psychic wounds.

Communities are not encouraged to remember. When we asked the Society for the Preservation of Nature to dedicate in memory of the boys the project they are currently working on in our community, we were told that they will not, as a matter of policy, make remembrances to victims.

Another example: The city of Jerusalem rushed to commemorate the victims of 9/11, while the families of the victims of Jerusalem's bombs attacks have struggled to get the city to even put up a plaque in their children's memories.

Every corner could host a memorial.

Perhaps we fear that if we remember all our losses, we will be unable to move forward, to act productively -- to live. Every corner could host a memorial. So not remembering becomes a survival strategy. Perhaps the collective memory of the Holocaust is so overpowering that we as a nation have decided not to visit our losses and pain.

But when we don't remember the victims, we consign their deaths to oblivion and meaninglessness. It slices my heart when people say to me that Koby's death is senseless. It is senseless only if we don't remember it; only if don't use it to make meaning. Then mourning becomes a kind of hell.

Judaism is a religion that is forged on a national memory of the Exodus when we were released from slavery and given the opportunity to forge a national identify based on recognizing God. We continually remember the Holy Temple and our bonds to Jerusalem. Keeping that memory alive is what has tied us to Israel throughout the millennia.

Our task of forging a nation continues. But for memory to animate us, we need to recognize that our losses in these past years are part of our national struggle. We must weave that meaning and the memory of the dead together in our lives. We should ask ourselves and others -- in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora -- to issue postage stamps, and name streets, and parks and schools and good works in their names.

Remembering the victims not only gives them the respect they deserve, and their families some solace, but it can give all of us courage as well. Remembering means that we participate in the stories of loss not as voyeurs, but as participants of a national history. By granting the victims' lives visibility and meaning, we redeem their stories -- and our own.


Leave a Reply

🤯 ⇐ That's you after reading our weekly email.

Our weekly email is chock full of interesting and relevant insights into Jewish history, food, philosophy, current events, holidays and more.
Sign up now. Impress your friends with how much you know.
We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe in a single click.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram