Posted by Amalia Safran
Yesterday marked the 18th anniversary of the bombing of the AMIA in the Once neighborhood of Buenos Aires. After living in Once for five months, commemorating the day was important to me. I was living in a residencia for my junior year semester abroad just blocks from where the attack took place on July 18, 1994. Only passing the building once — a plain, boxy-gray structure with a large black plaque filled with the 85 names in graffiti-writing of the people who died — I still felt a strong inclination to think about the tragedy at some point during my day as a way of commemoration.
What is interesting about this time of year, the three weeks leading up to Tisha B’Av, is that it is also a time of commemoration — a time to remember and mourn the events leading up to the destruction of the temples, which took place on the last day of the three weeks. I had only just learned about the AMIA tragedy this year and the coincidence that it fell during the three weeks. So, with the anniversary of the AMIA bombing and the “three weeks of sorrow,” how do we remember and commemorate tragedy during our busy, often over-planned, summer lives?
Incorporating the “three weeks of sorrow” into my daily life has proven to be a challenge, as was my personal commemoration of the AMIA bombing. Between work and its consistently chaotic commute, catching up with friends who I hadn’t seen in months, walking with my family to get ice cream on warm summer nights, hopping on trains to get away for the weekends, and of course basking in air conditioning while catching up on television, it becomes difficult to put summer aside and reflect on past tragedies. Not to say my list of summer chores is more important or a higher priority in my life than commemoration and reflection, but along with summertime comes a care-free attitude that makes us sometimes forget the reality, or forget past impactful events.
So between work, friends, family, food, travel, and television, I found time to reflect yesterday. I read a few articles about the AMIA and the memorial service that took place in Buenos Aires, along with some literature about the three weeks. It put me in a different state of mind — one that wasn’t contemplating ice cream flavors or what to pack for the weekend, but instead a state of mind that made me think, really think, about the tragedies that happened this time of year. I thought about my time in Buenos Aires, my time living in the Orthodox Jewish community of Once, my time walking past the AMIA, my past summers at conservative Jewish camp, my experiences hearing Eichah from campers, my usual singing of Hatikvah at the closing of Tisha B’av, my summer in Israel, my time spent at the Western Wall — these all came into my mind as a way of reflection and remembrance. It was brief. It didn’t follow any sort of order or rules, but it was for me.
Commemoration can be a difficult thing. The “three weeks of sorrow” consists of fasts, Torah readings, and refraining from joyous events in order to retain a somber and sorrowful state. My time during the three weeks hasn’t been like that; I have enjoyed people’s company, parties, traveling — I have enjoyed summer. But along with the enjoyment of summer, I still wanted and was able to find a way to commemorate on my own, a way that let me take time from the chaos to remember and mourn in a meaningful way.
Amalia is a student at Lehigh University and an intern at the Jewish Book Council.