Rituals of Death

A day or two more and the fallen of the IAF helicopter crash in Romania will be buried, the bereaved families will never find rest or comfort, and the people of Israel will forget and move on to the commercials.

Disasters sometimes happen, and occasionally, they happen one after the other. Words fail us in the face of a father who murders his three children. The helicopter accident that took the lives of six Israeli airmen and a Romanian colleague in the Carpathians is shocking. There is not a mother or a father alive who does not think of their children; no Israeli can remain indifferent to these two catastrophes.

IAF helicopter crash in Romania

And after all this has been said, it is impossible not to wonder at the rituals of death that are once again being enacted. These very private disasters - the end of the world for all who knew and loved the victims - have been expropriated and turned into national disasters, making cynical use of pornographic death dances, a mixture of kitsch and death. All proportion is lost as everything gets dished out in exaggerated, crude helpings that go on endlessly, or at least until the next disaster.

The memory of the victims, as well as the conclusions to be drawn from the disasters, if there are any, do not benefit from these death dances, which are devoid of good taste, restraint and sensitivity.

It started with reports of Itai Ben Dror's appalling murder of his three children, Omer, Roni and Or. Words fail? Not at all. The words and weeping of the bereaved mother, Lilach, at her time of unimaginable sorrow reverberated from one end of the country to the other, along with those of all the relatives who were called on to lament in public.

In contrast, we repeatedly saw close-ups of the father bound hand and foot, wearing tattered hospital pajamas, walking barefoot, his feet bloodstained, on his way from the hospital to a jail cell. How many times did we see him helpless, trying in vain to hide his face? How many times did we see him in those pajamas? Why? What for? What is the difference between that and tarring and feathering him, between that and skinning him in the marketplace? Thus shall be done to the man who murders his children; thus shall be done here to almost anyone accused of a crime.

"There is no one to call me Mommy," the mother's cry was splashed in a giant headline. "They won't know the father," the headlines screamed the next day, already announcing the next disaster, which replaced its quickly forgotten predecessor. Just as we recovered from the murder, the helicopter disaster befell us. Pilots instead of children, but once again the ritual. An air disaster instead of a murder, but again the same unbridled craving for ratings and sales, in the name of which almost anything goes.

The parade of psychiatrists who publicly expounded on the killer's psychological condition has now been replaced by a parade of air fleet and squadron leaders, past, present and future, who chatted away in praise of every nut and bolt in the Sikorsky CH-53. Is Ben Dror insane or not? Is the Sikorsky sound or not?

Four months ago, Lior became a father; just two months ago, Yahel had a daughter; in five months, Nir was to have become a father. Endless conversations with bereaved uncles who say their loved ones were the salt of the earth, with aunts who tell how the fallen were so charming and special, not like everyone else. As if it isn't already horrific enough without those details. The morbidness continues ad nauseam as we keep track of the search for body parts. It wasn't enough for us that the Romanian general prosecutor "confirmed death for seven bodies," in the ridiculous language of one of the Israeli military correspondents. Only we will confirm death, in the patronizing language of the Israeli ambassador there. The helicopter's black box has been found, but the black box of a society that wallows in death has not been found and, it appears, never will be.

A day or two more and the fallen will be buried, the circumstances of the accident will be clarified, the bereaved families will never find rest or comfort, and the people of Israel will forget these two disasters and move on to the commercials. Then we will wait for the next disaster, looking ahead toward the next ritual of death, which will one again demand its pound of cheap emotion and cause us to forget all the real national disasters, about which we speak so little.