Elchanan Poupko

The Faces on Our Screens

This collage shows several Israeli soldiers and officers who were killed in action on the Gaza border, October 7, 2023. (Israel Defense Forces)

Since the war has been raging and our finest have been falling, I began paying tribute to them by posting about every soldier that gets killed and every young life that was taken from us. Most often, at night, at 11 PM, when the IDF website updates the names, I go to see who they are. I write a short description, see their photos, do some googling to find more details about them and their families, or watch of videos of them and their families if available. In this process, tears come to my eyes. I learn about the lives, the love, the passions, the families, and the communities, all shattered by a bullet, an IED, or a Hamas bomb in Gaza. Tears often come to my eyes when doing this. 

Yet the most painful side of doing this is not seeing the person’s smile, not seeing the grieving parents or the devastated community, not seeing the bravery of who they were and how they fought—all that is painful, but not the most. The most painful part of learning about each life and posting about it, is finishing to write the post, closing the tab on my computer, and going on to write about the next soldier. The tab on my laptop closes but remains forever open in the lives of so many. Closing the tab not because I do not care about the life of that soldier or who he was but closing the tab because there is another soldier I need to write about–another young person who lost his life. 

The pain of realizing the metaphorical eternal tab that will remain open for an entire family community is coupled with the next life that we must learn has been lost, which has been the story of this war. 

To many soldiers, what is true about those who died is true to an extent to the injured who will live. Yes, they survived a bullet, an IED, an RPG, or other assaults on their lives, but their injuries may remain with them. We might pray for a soldier who was injured now, but for many of them, full recovery will mean losing a limb for the rest of their lives, their faces and bodies being changed forever, the trauma of PTSD casting a shadow on their entire lives. 

As this war continues and our finest and brightest are brought to hospitals, rehab centers, and cemeteries, it is our responsibility for life to remember that faces on our screens are forever in someone else’s life. It is our duty to remember that while we might have the privilege to close the tab on this heartbreaking news or the other, others do not have that privilege. Those others can be found visiting their children and siblings’ graves in the military graveyards; they can be at their side in hospitals, rehabilitation centers, medical appointments, and their day-to-day lives. It is our generation’s responsibility to stand with these families and individuals, letting them know we will never close the tab on those to whom we owe so much. 

About the Author
Rabbi Elchanan Poupko is a New England based eleventh-generation rabbi, teacher, and author. He has written Sacred Days on the Jewish Holidays, Poupko on the Parsha, and hundreds of articles published in five languages. He is the president of EITAN--The American Israeli Jewish Network.
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