Text size

Why, asks Geula Hershkovitz, did Israeli television on the very eve of Remembrance Day for the Fallen in Israel's Wars choose to show - of all the broadcasts in the world - the harsh pictures of the massacre of Muslims by Christians in the Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in Lebanon? Whose Remembrance Day, continues Hershkovitz, should Israeli television be commemorating on that sacred evening - the Palestinians? What does this replaying of the Palestinian tragedy have to do with an evening that should be wholly devoted to the memory of our loved ones?

Hershkovitz, who lost both her husband, Arieh, and her son, Assaf, in the space of three months at the beginning of the current war of terror, was not the only one hurt and frustrated by the attempt to turn Remembrance Day into Despondence Day, a day of breast-beating and doubting the purpose for which the fallen in Israel's wars fought.

Hershkovitz felt that in order to achieve their goal, the programs' editors chose not to focus on the fallen, as is traditional and customary. They chose instead, in addition to the Sabra and Chatila footage, to recycle the despondent films - just six months after they were presented at the festival of depression that accompanied the 30th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War - whose main message is that the sacrifice of the fallen was in vain.

Still, it is doubtful whether such words of despair, even at official remembrance events such as at Rabin Square, for example, reflect the mood even among the families of the fallen in Tel Aviv. Most of what was said, sung - and broadcast, of course - from that stage in Rabin Square reflects mainly the personal positions of those who determined who would present, who would speak, who would sing what, and who would write the connecting dialogue.

Instead of choosing a bereaved mother who thinks it was a shame that her daughter, who was killed by a suicide bomber, was ever educated to serve in the army, the event's organizers could have chosen some other bereaved mother, another presenter who had different ideas, and a different demeanor and approach to this sacred day.

They could have decided that the songs chosen to be sung, as is customary on the eve of Remembrance Day, be, in the words of poet Chaim Guri, songs of sadness and glory rather than songs of depression and despair.

Was there a reason that the organizers of the event at Rabin Square did not choose Geula Hershkovitz and others like her, perhaps one of the parents of the four yeshiva students/soldiers murdered in Otniel, for example? People who would remind us in a sentence or two what happened there? People who declare that even though their sons were killed, they have no complaints against anyone? That their sacrifice, despite the very tragic circumstances, were not in vain? That their tragedy can be turned into a driving force behind social and spiritual involvement, and can be a source for personal and family strength?

According to the value system of the selectors from Rabin Square, however, there is no room at "their" event for wholesome messages of love of people and country; certainly not for messages of accepting one's fate as the price being paid in this long war whose end is nowhere in sight.

Yes, even though there are thousands of such "wholesome" families, both religious and secular - and which are apparently the overwhelming majority among the families of the fallen - on Remembrance Days in recent years their voices have been heard less and less.

Those who decide what will be read in the pages of the remembrance supplements in the newspapers, what will be viewed on the television and what will be heard on the radio, including on Army Radio, prefer to broadcast, more and more, the voices of those - directors, writers and performers, and of course bereaved parents - whose messages are despair, regret and depression. Instead of emphasizing, at least on this night, the great achievement of the Yom Kippur War and drawing strength and courage from it, people who hold the keys to molding public awareness turn that amazing military victory - which is taught in military academies around the world - into a symbol of Israel's psychological downfall.

Just six months ago, when Israel commemorated 30 years since the Yom Kippur War, the media rushed, as is their wont, to turn that great victory into a festival of gloom. Then along came the designers of Remembrance Day - apparently the very same people - and felt the irrepressible need, on that very night, to broadcast those films of failure and self-guilt; to recycle, on the night when so many sit in front of their tribal campfire screens, in order to identify with the figures who, in their deaths (yes, that's right) commanded us to live, to poke obsessively and masochistically in the wounds that they refuse to allow to heal.

And instead of letting us commune with the fallen, on the very night set aside for emphasizing the achievements of those whose died holy and pure, they broadcast programs aimed at adding to the painful burden that the bereaved families - and all of us, in fact - are already carrying in our souls.

Those who want us to live in a permanent state of depression, who would take from us the purpose and will to live in this land, are very few. But they have been given the stage for molding our consciousness. Through their "professional" manipulation in choosing people and content, they conceal from us the voices of the majority, the confident, optimistic voices that believe in the future of the nation and the state; those for whom Remembrance Day is not a day of depression or failure at all, but rather a day of communion that although it holds much sadness, also holds a natural and healthy feeling of much glory.