The obituaries we publish on this page are celebrations of lives well lived. It is uplifting to eulogise Holocaust survivors, many of whom reached their late nineties or beyond, and brought a luminosity to the lives of their children.
But in these darkest of days since the Holocaust, there are 1,400 unwritten obituaries of people, including small children and babies who were denied the fullness of their years or a peaceful death.
There were children and their parents, grandparents, Holocaust survivors, people dedicated to helping the people of Gaza just across the border, by driving them to hospital, sharing ideas with them about the ways and means an unlikely peace might be achieved.
All murdered by 3,000 Hamas terrorists who broke through a border security fence and gunned them down indiscriminately; jihadists who brought death from the sea and from the sky.
How would you even begin to write the obituary of a child? Or perhaps the obituary of an idea. The Supernova music festival where young people gathered to celebrate life and harmony but where, instead, they fell as they danced.
Young girls pleading for their lives but seized by the hair and shot in the head. The Druze brothers Rada and Raif Rashed, who catered for the party, described the indescribable. At least 260 bodies were removed from the venue following the attack.
There is an obituary to be written of the southern border kibbutzim, Kfar Aza or Nir Oz or Nahal Oz, which bore the brunt of the attacks and which, even as they struggle to recover, can never recapture their essential wholeness, their atavistic pioneering spirit. That has gone, alongside their pacific dreams of sharing a future with their Arab neighbours.
In Golders Green the names of the dead and the hostages taken by Hamas papered the streets — until they were taken down by people who believed Israeli children were also the enemies of peace between Israel and Palestine.
These obituaries will never be written, except in the hearts of their broken families. It is impossible, of course, to write obituaries of 1,400 people.
And yet something deep stirs within me — honoured as I am to edit this page — some almost spiritual need to commit their loss to paper. To mourn them here, on this page.
To honour the pain and anguish of those families, hugging their children close at the breakfast table where their killers, having feasted on their deaths, commenced to gorge upon their food.
A grieving Israeli woman in Tel Aviv (Photo: Flash 90)
Babies incinerated. Bodies dismembered. Thrown out onto the grass like rubbish. Too many to name, yes far too many to honour. But we can mention a symbolic few.
On Nahal Oz kibbutz Hadar Kamah, Golda Meir’s great great nephew, 24; Noam Elyakim, his partner Dikla Arava and her 17-year-old son Tomer; Carmela Dan and her 12-year-old granddaughter Noya.
At the Supernova music festival,German-Israeli Shani Louk, 23; German-Israeli economist Avshalom Haran, 66; Eviatar Kipnis, 65, and his wife Lilach, 60. Members of the kibbutz guard with military experience, killed as they patrolled the perimeter.
A new Israeli song is circulating on YouTube titled Don’t Leave Me Until I’ve Grown Up. Images of young children flit across the screen.
The dead or the missing, I don’t know which. What is expressed is the longing of children to grow up close to their parents. To be cherished. To be safe.
Everywhere we are exhorted to light yartzheit candles, say the Kaddish, offer urgent prayers of healing for the fallen. Pray, pray, pray for peace for everyone, every child, Israeli or Palestinian.
David Ben Zion, the deputy commander of Unit 71, led an experienced team of paratroopers who saved many lives after reaching Kfar Aza.
He saw unspeakable things. Dismembered bodies lying in the gardens. He said the Hamas gunmen who killed families and even babies “were just a jihad machine to kill everybody, (people) without weapons — just normal citizens that wanted to take their breakfast and that’s all.”
The chalutzic spirit of the first Zionists who expressed the longing to return to Eretz Israel infused these southern kibbutzim.
Those who chose to live there accepted the ever-present danger of Hamas rocket attacks after the terrorist group seized control of Gaza in 2007. Concrete shelters reinforced a lifestyle of intense community, with playgrounds for their children, barbecues and open spaces.
The shelters themselves were the memento mori of life on the edge. Eternally present. But there was joy here, and community spirit. Many people who lived here chose to support a two-state solution and made friends with the people of Gaza.
They were brave, freedom-loving and perhaps too credulous. Today, what is left of their lives is a cavernous trauma, as deep as the Holocaust, as bitterly mourned in its terrible sense of violation.
This obituary is for the dimmed light of a resurgent community whose homes lie in ruins and whose lives will never be the same again. It is for those who survived the Holocaust only to fall again in their promised land.
It is for young people dancing at a Supernova festival, named for the “last hurrah” of a massive, dying star. It is for babies and children who will never realise their dreams.