Ariella Cohen

The Guilt Is Real

The guilt is resurfacing. It’s been mostly under the radar for several weeks, but it’s back. En force.

The words “הותר לפירסוםhave become the dreaded words in this country. The words that no one wants to hear. The words that make us all instantly tense up because we don’t know whose names will follow. These words hike my heart rate up every time. These are the words that precede the names of IDF soldiers that have been killed. The names are permitted for publication once the necessary family members have been informed.

There have been way too many Whatsapp notifications beginning with these words over the past week or two. It’s scary. Because there are a lot of names that I do not want to see on the list. And I feel some level of guilt whenever I don’t recognize the names. Because somebody else does. Many somebodies. They all have family, friends, and neighbors. And people who know of them in all sorts of extended ways. And while I am relieved to not recognize a name, too many other people are not.

As I think about the number of people who I have some level of connection with who are currently serving in the army, I realize that that number is quite small in relation to most other people in Israel. This makes sense seeing as I made Aliyah less than 3 months ago. So most of the people I know in this category are people from my pre-Aliyah life. Most other people in this country know a lot more people here than I do, so they have more to fear when seeing this pair of words. And that makes me feel guilty too.

I feel guilty that when I see a name I don’t recognize, I generally do not remember it. I do take the time to look at their pictures and ages and where they are from. My way of making it a bit more real. But even though I feel a punch in the gut when I see the words “הותר לפירסום“, the targeted pain doesn’t last. The more general collective pain of the sorrow certainly does, but it’s not the same.

I also feel guilty for not attending more funerals and shiva visits for our soldiers who have been killed. Sometimes I have the ability to go but don’t which makes me feel even more guilty because there are definitely lots of people both locally and in the Diaspora that wish they could but can’t. So it somehow feels like I’m letting people down.

The desire to attend these events can come both selflessness and selfishness, and in this particular case one is not necessarily better than the other. On the selfless side, we want to be there to support the grieving family, whether or not we know them. There is strength in numbers. In regards to selfishness, maybe we go just because we feel guilty. Or maybe because we want to really feel the pain. Hearing a speech about someone we lost is significantly more impactful and emotional than just seeing a photo. I know this from watching videos from funerals and shiva houses. The floodgates open even without actually being there in person, so how much more so when additionally feeling the energy of the crowd. This is possibly the best type of selfishness there could be.

Yesterday was the funeral for a local chayal who was killed in battle on Shabbat. I don’t know him or his family, but many of my friends do. There were busses going from Beit Shemesh, but I didn’t end up going. I made plenty of excuses for myself. It was cold. It was rainy. I didn’t have anyone to go with. I wasn’t positive if there would be room on the bus. I didn’t know what time the bus was leaving. I didn’t know the guy or his family. Plenty of other people would be there.

These are all valid excuses. But I feel guilty because who am I to sit here making excuses? The people who knew him likely have some of the same excuses, but they are rendered irrelevant because the desire to show him this final respect completely outweighs any of them. I’m sure plenty of people who went didn’t know him yet still went anyway even though the conditions weren’t ideal. Because nothing about losing a 21 year old in war is ideal.

But everyone is different. I don’t think it’s healthy to compare our emotional side with anyone else. And as guilty as I may feel, I keep reminding myself that I am not a bad person for not attending this funeral. Or the too many other funerals that have been taking place on Har Herzl in recent weeks. That’s not necessarily the way that I need to be contributing to the war effort. Some people go to as many funerals and shiva houses as they can, and that is incredibly amazing. I’m honestly a bit jealous of those people. But I am doing other things. I’m not sitting around doing nothing.

The guilt is real. And I am embracing it. It doesn’t feel good. A lot doesn’t feel good right now. But I am happy that I feel guilty because the other option is numbness. And I certainly don’t want to feel numb right now. It may be the easier option, but I’m not one to always choose the easy way out. I’m a feeler. An empath. And I accept the uncomfortable feelings that come with that because it makes me feel closer to my people. A people who will live on forever that I am proud to be a part of. Even during times as dark as these. Now more than ever.

About the Author
Ariella Cohen grew up in Far Rockaway, NY and made Aliyah from Bala Cynwyd, PA in August 2023. She is an engineer and amateur musician with lots of other hobbies on the side.
Related Topics
Related Posts