The mitzvah of memory
Memorializing is a psychologically necessary step in the process of healing. Through our experience with all of Israel’s victims of terror, we have come to understand this clearly.
Sbarro Terror Attack in Jerusalem Photo: REUTERS
This week Israel’s Supreme Court dismissed a petition by Israel’s Terror
Victims’ Association. The Israeli government plans to build a NIS 40 million
memorial site, to be called the Hall of Names, in memory of all of the soldiers
that have fallen in Israel’s lifelong battle for survival. The government of
Israel decided that the names of Israel’s civilian victims of terror should not
be included in that national memorial. The Terror Victims’ Association of Israel
argued, in their petition to the court, that civilian terror victims should be
included in the state-sponsored memorial. And for good reason.
fair, they argue, for soldiers in uniform who were killed by a suicide bomber on
a bus to have their names memorialized forever in the Hall of Names, while the
civilians murdered on that same bus, in the seat right next to the soldiers,
will have their names excluded? To be forgotten? The Defense Ministry and Yad
Lebanim, (an organization for families of fallen soldiers), countered that the
men and women who die in uniform should be commemorated differently from
civilian terror victims, to preserve the symbolism of their deaths, as soldiers
serving their country.
The court’s dismissal of the petition means that
Israeli civilians killed by terrorists will not be included in the National
Memorial, even though the commander of the IDF is on record saying that in
Israel’s current and future wars, every citizen of Israel is now on the front
lines, subject to the same missile attacks as every soldier.
At the same
time, I can understand the position taken by the IDF. The overall image of
military service as an honor and privilege, especially in a country with a
national draft, is important to the morale of the soldiers who are serving, have
served, have fallen, and to their families. That they have fallen in the service
of their country and that a memorial should be dedicated to just that, is
Here is where I have a very real problem: the government decided
the commemoration of the two groups should be separate – but where is the NIS
40m. plan for the commemoration of the civilian victims of terror? Separate and
different I understand. Yet innocent civilians that put their trust in their
nation to protect them and that were killed by the same enemies our soldiers
battle in our lifelong fight for survival should not be ignored or
The Hall of Names is a meritorious project, but I would like
the Israeli government to explain to me why the decision was not to divide the
money in some way to create two important memorials in different locations, one
for the more than 22,000 soldiers who have given their lives and one for the
3,000 civilians who have been killed by terrorists since the founding of the
Families that have lost loved ones in the process of a 65-year
struggle for national survival all deserve dignity, respect, acknowledgement of
the ultimate sacrifice that was made, and it is a mitzvah to keeping their loved
one’s memories alive, regardless of whether they fell in uniform or
Just as it is our boys and girls, our children, husbands and fathers
that have fallen in battle as soldiers, so too it is our family that has fallen
as ordinary citizens, simply trying to go about their daily lives.
making a decision that is understandable, there must be an acknowledgement of
national responsibility by our government. The time has come for more than just
declarations of separateness.
Victims of terror are different, but they
are also equal.
I have yet to meet anyone in Israel that has not been
personally touched in some way by terror. We are grieving nationally for our
loss – and we should be. Their families, and the entire Jewish people as one
family, deserve a place to visit, to educate and be educated, and to remember
those that have fallen.
What we need for our civilian victims is
something different than a military memorial; a center of education – and
inspiration – to live, to celebrate life and to fight the dark with light. We
need a location of healing and of memory that helps us learn and tell over the
stories of all we have lost.
I envision a memorial that becomes a tribute
to those whose lives were violently cut short and an international center for
condemning and combatting terrorism. As the global jihad continues to stretch
further and further beyond the scope of Israel, let us be a lesson to the world
on how to remember while we move forward, with proper respect for those that
have fallen along the way.
We owe them, and their loved ones, the mitzvah
A soldier’s death is different from a civilian’s death. But
the response to evil must be the same; to celebrate life while memorializing
those who are gone, by speaking for those they have silenced, and by
perpetuating the memories and stories of those who can no longer do so for
Memorializing is a psychologically necessary step in the
process of healing. Through our experience with all of Israel’s victims of
terror, we have come to understand this clearly.
As an aspect of our aid
to the bereaved we care for, OneFamily is offering to financially partner with
the Government of Israel, to make this necessary memorial site a
In this way the president, prime minister and Knesset can
acknowledge to the rest of us that we are not just a state with a powerful and
deeply cherished military, we are also the Jewish people, mourning, and living,
together, as one family.
The writer is chairman of One- FamilyFund.org,
the primary privately funded organization that rehabilitates, reintegrated and
rebuilds the lives of Israel’s thousands of victims or terror.