Summer Pitocchelli Schwartzman

The siren’s call

This year’s Yom HaZikaron feels surreal. Maybe it’s surreal because as I write this, I’m sitting comfortably at home, listening to Taylor Swift while I try to find words sufficiently artistic to penetrate national mourning, and knowing my friends on every border of this country are defending my ability to write. Maybe it’s surreal because I’m not sure what to do with myself, having never experienced this level of loss or grief. Maybe it’s surreal because inside we feel a hurricane when the sun still shines.

I’m not usually one to visit graveyards, yet yesterday I made my first pilgrimage to Har Herzl before the crowds so I could say (say?) hello to my friends buried there. It was…eerie…silent. Over the last couple months I’ve learned that there are different types of silence: there is comfortable silence between two friends, there is screaming silence when you feel you want to cry, there is the silence of a Word Document when you are trying to write blog posts and the words just won’t come. The silence I felt then though was absolute. It was the type where even the birds don’t sing, like the world was holding its breath.

I’m not even sure what to write. It feels so inadequate to the desolation striking this country to say I sobbed hysterically by my friends’ graves. It feels so inadequate to say “friends’”; I’m not mourning just one or two empty spaces, but many…too many. What am I supposed to think in this situation? It feels so inadequate to stand by one of my friend’s graves and think “she definitely wasn’t this small. How can she be comfortable in such a small space?”

As a young Olah Chadasha, I didn’t arrive in Israel knowing very many people. A couple years later, with a few more life experiences under my belt, I can’t help but think that “becoming Israeli” is growing a collection of scars in the shape of sacrifices others make so that we can live here. Sometimes, these are small, like giving up one’s time to help another. Sometimes, this means our friends’ lives.

As my father in law would say: “What’s the takeaway?”

I’m still not sure. We need each other, as a community and as a nation. This I am sure of. I know I have become so much less shy over the course of the war, reaching out to total strangers to support and be supported. I know I am marginally better about staying in touch with my friends scattered across the country (friends, let’s not pretend this was EVER my strong suit!) I know I am better attuned to others because of my experiences over the last few months, but that sensitivity arose out of circumstances I wish never would have happened.

I’m not a political commentator, or a military strategist. I have no idea how we got here and I have no idea how to even start repairing the damage. The siren on Yom HaZikaron forces us to stay still for a moment and consider these questions, regardless of where or who we are. We stop, we pause, and we reflect on those that gave their lives so we could ask these questions.

I’m not a political commentator or a military strategist. But I know that we have a responsibility to do better. Maybe the simplicity of that thought and the action that comes from it are enough.

About the Author
Summer made Aliyah from Atlanta in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. Upon arriving, she proudly served as a lone Bat Sherut at Hadassah Hospital. Summer currently studies biotech at Bar Ilan University while editing academic publications on the side. When not studying, Summer enjoys good coffee and traveling with her husband Yoni, with whom she frequently collaborates on publishing Israel photography on social media, and his book “Living Vision”.
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