Yaacov Yisroel Bar Chaiim

Screaming above the silence for our Noas & Shanis

Palestinian terrorists drive to the Gaza Strip with what is believed to be the body of Shani Louk, on October 7, 2023. (AP/Ali Mahmud)

Two iconic images.

Two very different witnesses. 

Their stories were seared into our collective, traumatized consciousness, from the get-go … and now they’ve both returned.  

Didn’t G~d tell us that while we can’t see His face, He will show us His back (Ex. 33:23)? It means retrospect. I’m struggling to meet this divine challenge. 

Noa Argamani – we encountered her on the move, utterly terrified, as she was being whisked towards Hell between two demons.  

Shani Louk – we were struck by her corpse, horribly abused and degraded, as she was being paraded within that Hell.

Both had mothers who converted. Noa’s from China; Shani’s from Germany.  

Both were rescued. Shani’s body from a terrorist tunnel; Noa’s person from a “civilian” apartment building. 

Both were cherished by innumerable friends and family for being bright bursts of joy.

My soul screams out for both. Especially after viewing the very difficult film, “Screams Before Silence,” which informs us, documented fact after documented fact, of how the targeting of our women was central to Hamas’s diabolical plan.  Amazingly, many sexual “progressives” have managed to ignore this documentary, because they believe it must be propaganda. On the other end of the spectrum, strictly Orthodox Jews refuse to see it because of the gore and immodesty. As a Baal Teshuva (Orthodox Jew by choice), raised among the former, and living among the latter for decades, what I find most interesting is that these beautiful young ladies we would have thought would have been on the progressive team, have entered Jewish history as two, profoundly endearing heroines.


Back in the day of Pharaoh, the original antisemitic terrorist, we were spiritually helpless. It never crossed our minds to protest the slavery and torture, let alone the drowning of our babies in the Nile, because Pharaoh was in control, and apparently G~d was not. Though our faith in the existence of the divine, and the veracity of His promises to liberate us, one day, was unshakable, the idea of using that faith to fight this evil never occurred to us.  

It was G~d’s fight.  

Moses was the first to puncture that existential black hole. He taught that G~d offered a real mission in life, for each and every one of us, no matter the circumstances. As the hassidic master from Koznitz notes (Avodat Yisroel on Avot) about what we recite right after celebrating the Exodus every Passover: “Every Israelite has (yesh not yehiyeh) an allotment towards (lamed not bet) the Next World.”  It means that we’re given crucial tools in this world for transcending it, i.e mitzvot, divine commandments. Pharaoh’s evil is respectively not measured by how much suffering he caused, but by how much he prevented access to mitzvot. “Let My people go!” was never about slavery, per se, but religious freedom (Ex. 5:1; 7:15; 8:25; 9:1; 9:13; 10:4).

This brand-new consciousness about the purpose of life is what drove the Exodus. As Victor Frankel, the famous Holocaust psychiatrist, would clinically prove after his harrowing ordeal: Suffering, in and of itself, is not what kills the human spirit; suffering without meaning does. Purposely taking away meaning from those who are suffering is thus the worst of evil. Which is why Pharaoh’s last crime, before divine intervention, was decreeing that we impossibly do the same work within a fraction of the time (Ex. 5). At that point, it was clear that his primary aim was our spiritual suffering.  

And so we chastise the (relatively) Wicked Son at the Passover service to stop trying to convince us that only the spiritually accomplished should celebrate the redemption (“What is this service for YOU,” the Sages). If the Exodus taught us anything, we explain with conviction, it’s that G-d helps not as a reward for past merits, but as succulence for spiritual resilience (Netivot Sholom II, Pessach). 

And that is why I am so shaken by that film. It makes all too clear that Hamas not only reveled in murdering us, but in defiling our spirit. They were not “resisting occupation,” but seeking to make us feel unworthy of the Holy Land. And how better than making us believe, for even a moment, that our women deserved this! 


Some believe that evil is a real live entity, with a personality. A god, slightly less powerful than the ultimate Good Guy, who sometimes overwhelms Him. They give this scoundrel a name, like Satan, Devil, Amalek … Hamas. It’s comforting to believe there’s someone to blame. But I don’t find naming helpful. Much more truthful, to my mind, is viewing evil as a toxic energy pulsating throughout the cosmos, which troubled people lustfully embrace, and wayward people get passively infected by, while the majority of mankind struggles to tolerate it from a distance. Judaism teaches that there’s actually an antidote: Believing that evil is friction for the forces of goodness to grow. It’s the weed in Eden that forces the Tree of Life to deepen its roots … until naturally choking it out (cf. Ps. 92:8).

Though it was very difficult for me to view “Screams Before Silence,” it definitely deepened my faith. If such evil is targeting the sanctity of our women, we must counter it by enhancing our commitment to that sanctity. We must embrace the relevant mitzvot like never before. This doesn’t mean to pile on the humrot, religious stringencies. But it does mean to ramp up our belief in the spiritual potential within this most precious part of life.  

Nissim Louk, father of sweet Shani, recently commented on how his daughter’s remains were found, 7 months after her murder, miraculously intact. Apparently, being held deep inside a tunnel preserved the body. But her father insisted that it fits what he’s learned from Jewish tradition about how, to quote him: “The righteous do not rot after death.”

Who can deny a mourning father such meaning. And yet, after a little research, it’s clear that Shani wasn’t exactly leading a traditionally righteous life. But it’s also clear that she was a tremendously spiritual person. Not only because “EVERY Israelite has an allotment…”, but because of the genuine joy that radiated from her eyes, in EVERY picture, totally in line with her mother’s report about her amazing love for life. That love was much more than cheap pleasure seeking. Her spirit was palpably ALIVE; a spark from the tiniest chapter of Scriptures (Ps. 117):

Praise the L~rd, all nations;

 laud Him, all peoples.

 For His kindness has overwhelmed us,

 and the truth of the L~rd is forever –


Yaacov Argamani, father of noble Noa, couldn’t hold back his tears when telling us of his incredibly deep sense of her being a gift from above. “At first sight,” he pleaded with the world to understand about her birth, “I realized I have the most wonderful, most beautiful, sweetest and best child a father can have.” He clearly felt that the purity of his love should make a difference. Moreover, his wife had been recently diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She pleaded in a heart-wrenchingly ill voice, with a heavy Chinese accent, for the world to please help her see her daughter once more before she passes.

Talk about a humanitarian crisis!

When Noa returned, miraculously unscathed, Yaacov recited the traditional She’hekhiyanu prayer of praise for being given new life, and then gushed with prayer after prayer for the return of every other captive soul. His embracing of the Holy One’s kindness was so palpable, it was hard to imagine that the final redemption hadn’t already arrived.

Israel supporters like to declare that our nation stands out for believing in the imperative of U’vacharta B’chaiim, “Choose Life!” (Deut. 30:19), in contrast to Hamas’s death cult. Shani & Noa and all who love them certainly specialized in that mitzvah. But the truth is, after the incredible trials they were all put through, they also have a connection with Kedoshim Tihiyu, “Be Holy!” (Lev. 19:2). Some say this mitzvah is a reminder to refine our intimate life. Others say it’s a much broader obligation to sanctify every single part of life, far beyond traditional religiosity.  These pure souls were clearly chosen for helping the Chosen Nation restrengthen their commitment to both. The silence of the world’s justice warriors notwithstanding.  

Apparently, they want us to deepen our roots. To which we should scream, like never before, A M E N !

ב ס ” ד

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About the Author
The author was born and raised in a small American town, with a marginal connection to traditional Judaism. At age 19, he embarked on a journey of investigating Judaism, starting with a wide spectrum of Jewish communities in Israel, then youth group work in the Conservative movement in the US. He studied at J.T. S. and U.C. Berkeley, and then returned to Israel to study in traditional Yeshivot and Bar-Ilan university (Jewish Philosophy and Ed. Counseling), before becoming a member of the Slonimer hassidic community in Jerusalem. All his children are serious hassidim. He has taught English and Jewish Thought in Israeli highschools and adult ed programs, as well as in various Jewish communities around the world as a visiting scholar. Today, he lives, studies and writes in the town of Beitar Illit.
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