This piece is part of our Wit­ness­ing series, which shares pieces from Israeli authors and authors in Israel, as well as the expe­ri­ences of Jew­ish writ­ers around the globe in the after­math of Octo­ber 7th.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives.

I almost didn’t see my first stolper­stein; I near­ly stum­bled by it. In fact, I was so blind to the lit­tle memo­r­i­al plaques that it was a col­league, a fel­low Israeli, who first point­ed out the lit­tle brass squares on the cob­ble­stoned streets of Cologne, Ger­many. I remem­ber how we stopped and stood in a semi­cir­cle around the plaques, watch­ing and lis­ten­ing as our col­league crouched down and showed us the basics – a name, depor­tiret (deport­ed), a date, Auschwitz. 

Ever since that evening twelve years ago, when­ev­er I am in Europe, I find myself search­ing for stolper­steine while walk­ing down the street. I stop when­ev­er I see one, always feel­ing an oblig­a­tion to read the names. 

I see stolper­steine as a mix of his­tor­i­cal doc­u­men­ta­tion and atone­ment, a memo­r­i­al and a piece of art. I real­ize that these encoun­ters with stolper­steine reflect the expe­ri­ences of an out­sider, a woman born two gen­er­a­tions after the Holo­caust, whose great-grand­par­ents fled Europe before World War II. I don’t know how I would feel if I encoun­tered stolper­steine with the names of my rel­a­tives who didn’t make it. I also don’t know how I would feel if I moved to a city and had to face these sym­bols every day. What­ev­er the case, I have a feel­ing that, at some point, the stolper­steine would become almost invis­i­ble, blend­ing in with the rest of the scenery.

I am think­ing about stolper­steine a lot these days in the weeks before Yom HaZikaron. In the last six months, I’ve had my share of stolper­stein moments, not in the form of plaques with the names of Holo­caust vic­tims, but as stick­ers com­mem­o­rat­ing the fall­en sol­diers and ter­ror vic­tims after Octo­ber 7

The anal­o­gy of stick­ers to stolper­steine is far from per­fect. Memo­r­i­al stick­ers don’t fol­low a stan­dard tem­plate, size, shape, or col­or, and instead of a sin­gle brass plaque, there can be hun­dreds of copies and sev­er­al designs com­mem­o­rat­ing the same per­son. But there are sim­i­lar­i­ties between them, beyond the obvi­ous fact they both include basic bio­graph­i­cal data about those being hon­ored. These stick­ers – like stolper­stein– appear in the pub­lic space, where we encounter them by chance, and cre­ate a giant decen­tral­ized memorial. 


I didn’t stum­ble onto my first memo­r­i­al stick­er. It was giv­en to me by a teenag­er, a cousin of Lavi Lip­shitz, at the end of the shloshim cer­e­mo­ny in Har Her­zl. Lavi, who was killed in bat­tle in late Octo­ber, was one of my son Ben’s clos­est friends. I had known Lavi since he was a toddler. 

I admit that, at first, I didn’t quite know what to do with the stick­er. After feel­ing guilty that it stayed in a draw­er, I decid­ed to paste it on my lap­top. It sat next to the dec­o­ra­tive stick­ers with my company’s logo that I had got­ten as swag when I first joined. But I regret­ted my deci­sion when we went back to the office; in my first team meet­ing, I felt the stares on the back of my lap­top screen. When I returned to my desk, I removed Lavi’s stick­er and past­ed it on an orga­niz­er, where it remains to this day— his smile still fresh, even if as the tired adhe­sive has begun to fail, and the curl­ing part­ly hides the words around the sticker’s perime­ter: Care for the envi­ron­ment, care for each oth­er, for all liv­ing beings… Do, always.” In mem­o­ry of Staff Sgt. Lavi Lip­shitz Z”L.

All pho­tos cour­tesy of the author

Stick­ers in the pub­lic space aren’t an anom­aly in Israel — after all, this is the land of Shi­rat Ha Stick­er­im,” the hip-hop hit from the ear­ly 2000s whose rhyming lyrics were quotes from dozens of bumper stick­ers jux­ta­posed against each oth­er. After a few years of appar­ent calm — or too many elec­tion rounds — stick­ers again became ubiq­ui­tous in last year’s protests against the judi­cial reform. Memo­r­i­al stick­ers aren’t a new phe­nom­e­non either; I remem­ber see­ing a few of them in pre­vi­ous years on bench­es and in gar­dens. But the sheer vari­ety and the extent of the memo­r­i­al stick­ers dur­ing the cur­rent war, has turned them into an entire­ly dif­fer­ent cat­e­go­ry of commemoration. 

One stick­er spot­ted on the wind­shield of a parked car shows a smil­ing woman against a peach-col­ored back­ground. Fonts with radi­at­ing lines, like a child’s draw­ing of the sun, say Gili, the sun­shine in our lives. Octo­ber 7th 2023.”

On a lamp­post, from left to right I see a blond sol­dier in a red beret, salut­ing, with the words, Do Good. #Be_​Like_​Shahar. In mem­o­ry of Sha­har Friedman.” 

At the wait­ing room of my den­tist, lean­ing against the dec­o­ra­tive lamp, the back lin­er intact, I see a stick­er that says: Be like Moti. Just do it. In mem­o­ry of Maj. Moti Shamir, who fell in the bat­tle to defend Kib­butz Reim, Octo­ber 7th, 2023.”

And on the gray plex­i­glass of a bus stop in Jerusalem, I notice a stick­er that says: Smil­ing is our strength, not just a catch­phrase. In mem­o­ry of Uri­ah Aymelek Goshen, Jan­u­ary 17th 2024.” 


I can’t remem­ber what first made me take out my phone and snap pic­tures of the stick­ers. Maybe it was curios­i­ty, maybe it was a sense of duty to cap­ture it, and lat­er, try to learn more about the per­son. Or maybe it was sim­ply the real­iza­tion that paper is, like life itself, imper­ma­nent. That all stick­ers, with or with­out pro­tec­tive coat­ing, will even­tu­al­ly scuff, fade, disintegrate. 

What I do know is that once I start­ed pho­tograph­ing them, I couldn’t stop. I began active­ly seek­ing them out, allow­ing more time to wan­der around Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in train sta­tions and bus stops, on side­walks and plazas. I looked for them as I parked my car, on my way to my office in Rehovot, in my home­town of Modi­in, a rel­a­tive­ly young city that, giv­en its demo­graph­ics, has one of the high­est ratios of com­bat sol­diers in Israel. 

One morn­ing in Feb­ru­ary 2024, as I opened the zip­per of my back­pack to get it ready for inspec­tion at the entrance to the local mall, the stick­er on the booth where the guard sat caught my eye. I took a step back, want­i­ng to get a bet­ter look, let­ting those in line behind me take my spot. 

The stick­er was of Cap­tain Ori Shani, a name that didn’t just seem famil­iar from the news, but from the way Ben, my son, had described him: A real­ly great guy.” Ori was a Golani pla­toon com­man­der sta­tioned at the mil­i­tary out­post in Kib­butz Kissu­fim, less than a kilo­me­ter from the Gaza bor­der. Ben had been spend­ing a few days in Kissu­fim as part of his train­ing and met Ori there on the eve of Sim­chat Torah. 

After four­teen gru­el­ing hours on Octo­ber 7, Ben was one of dozens of sol­diers and civil­ians lucky to make it out alive out of the Kissu­fim post. It was only a week lat­er, in the chaos of the first days of the war, that Ben learned that Ori had been amongst those killed. 

Good will tri­umph!” Read the stick­er in bold white let­ters, Ori’s gaze smil­ing at some­one off camera. 

My own smile fad­ed. Yes, but at what price? I wondered.


When I first start­ed see­ing the stick­ers in pub­lic spaces, they were lon­ers. A few weeks lat­er, they almost always appeared in clus­ters, the pres­ence of one serv­ing as a mag­net for oth­ers. Days after notic­ing the stick­er of Ori Shani at the mall, a new one appeared below it. Over a dark pink back­ground, was a woman with a per­fect smile, her eyes almost closed. Words accom­pa­nied the image, Your song [in Hebrew, Shir] will nev­er stop play­ing. In mem­o­ry of Cap­tain Shir Eilat.” A Google search taught me she had been a com­man­der in the look­out unit in Nahal Oz. She had lived in a moshav not far from the city. 

The next time I was at the mall, there was a third stick­er out­side the booth, this time for a sol­dier who had been a res­i­dent of the city: Focus on the here and now, enjoy the moment. In mem­o­ry of First Sergeant Amit Most.” Ben had also men­tioned Amit’s name; he was a friend of a friend. 

A few weeks ago, I cre­at­ed an online album with the memo­r­i­al stick­ers I was pho­tograph­ing, in an attempt to add some order and ensure I didn’t run out of stor­age on my phone. I then tried to cre­ate a small cat­a­log, a spread­sheet with a pho­to of each stick­er, and the data it con­tained: a name, a slo­gan, a date, and any links or hash­tags. But after a hand­ful of entries, I gave up, real­iz­ing that the project would require much longer than an evening in front of my lap­top. At last count, I had more than 300 stick­ers, give or take a few repeats. 

The few rows of the spread­sheet that I had filled revealed some­thing else. Many of them, espe­cial­ly the ones I had pho­tographed over the last month, had URLs or QR codes that point­ed to a web­site or to a YouTube chan­nel. Oth­ers fea­tured an Insta­gram logo, and accounts that all began with the word remem­ber, an under­score, and a name — Remember_​Nati, Remember_​Eden, Remember_​Inbar_​Hayman. A quick Insta­gram search then showed more than fifty accounts fol­low­ing this same for­mu­la, includ­ing one enti­tled Remember_​Jonathan_​Savitsky. Ben didn’t know him per­son­al­ly, but knew of him. He was a twen­ty-one-year-old from my city, who fell on Octo­ber 7 after his unit was sent to sup­port those strand­ed in Kissufim. 

Look­ing at the posts and sto­ries, anoth­er pat­tern becomes appar­ent. In addi­tion to nos­tal­gic pho­tos post­ed by friends, or pho­tos of dif­fer­ent memo­r­i­al cer­e­monies, there are pho­tos of the memo­r­i­al stick­ers tak­en across the coun­try. The accounts even cross-tag each oth­er, espe­cial­ly if the pho­to also con­tains some­one else’s memo­r­i­al stick­er and adds the rel­e­vant name. Using hash­tags, nam­ing con­ven­tions, and tag­ging, the admin­is­tra­tors behind these sep­a­rate accounts are cre­at­ing a vir­tu­al, decen­tral­ized memo­r­i­al and community. 

Last month, a friend who stopped for cof­fee at the Beit Kama inter­sec­tion near the Gaza Enve­lope sent me a pho­to of a wall full of stick­ers. Since then, I’ve noticed more of these memo­r­i­al walls —on a pedes­tri­an bridge, in the Hashalom train sta­tion, out­side the IDF head­quar­ters in Tel Aviv. In a way, this seems to me to be com­ing full cir­cle, trans­form­ing a decen­tral­ized stick­er memo­r­i­al into a more tra­di­tion­al type of memorial. 

The record for the biggest num­ber of stick­ers in a sin­gle place, as far as I can tell, belongs to the booth at the check­point of Road 90, just north of the Dead Sea: more than fifty. When I asked the sol­dier on duty how that came to be, she said that fam­i­lies dri­ving past often just roll down their win­dows and hand them a stick­er, ask­ing to please add it to the col­lec­tion. She told me that it hap­pens quite often.

Sev­er­al weeks ago, I again stopped for the inspec­tion of my bag out­side the mall. I turned around and real­ized that the three stick­ers of Ori, Shir, and Amit were gone. 

I won­dered, Who has­dared to do this? A guard at the end of his shift? The man­age­ment office of the mall? Clean­ing crews from City Hall? Who­ev­er was respon­si­ble, they hadn’t even done a thor­ough job. Left behind were crusty rem­nants of adhe­sive in the size and shape of the orig­i­nal stickers. 

It’s safe to assume that one day, maybe even by next year’s Yom HaZikaron, the col­ors on the memo­r­i­al stick­ers will fade, and the bench­es and bus stops will be repaint­ed. The stick­ers will dis­ap­pear from our col­lec­tive spaces (even if they remain in our col­lec­tive memory.) 

One day, hope­ful­ly much soon­er, this name­less war will end, and we will stop obsess­ing about the slo­gans and the smil­ing pho­tos frozen in nar­row strips of self-adhe­sive sub­strate. This won’t mean, God for­bid, that we have for­got­ten our dead. Quite the con­trary. It will mean that, in their mem­o­ry, we are build­ing some­thing more per­ma­nent: a coun­try that doesn’t feel like it’s tee­ter­ing on the edge, about to be torn off by the wind. 

The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

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Vivian Cohen-Leisorek is a Guatemalan-Israeli writer com­plet­ing an MA in the Cre­ative Writ­ing pro­gram at Bar-Ilan Uni­ver­si­ty. She serves as a non­fic­tion edi­tor for The Ilan­ot Review, and her work has appeared in The Tel Aviv Review of Books, Busi­ness­Week Online and Under­ground.