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.

In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, JBI is record­ing writ­ers’ first-hand accounts, as shared with and pub­lished by JBC, to increase the acces­si­bil­i­ty of these accounts for indi­vid­u­als who are blind, have low vision or are print disabled. 


We still can’t decide on the name of the oper­a­tion, let alone make a bless­ing over it. Beit Hil­lel calls it Swords of Iron. Beit Shamai says Iron Swords

Do you know how these names come about?” asks my son’s well-informed friend, also a sol­dier. There’s a data­base, ready to go.” It’s eas­i­er than nam­ing trop­i­cal storms, because hur­ri­canes appear in alpha­bet­i­cal order. Wars, not so much.

Grant­ed, some names work bet­ter than oth­ers: Oper­a­tion Ofer­et Yet­zu­ka, Cast Lead, 2008, main­tains its zing even when trans­lat­ed. Oper­a­tion Tzuk Eitan, Pro­tec­tive Edge, 2014, was doomed from the start. Some names squeeze in bib­li­cal allu­sions: Pil­lar of Defense (also called Pil­lar of Cloud), 2012; Guardian of the Walls, 2022. Oth­ers sound almost love­ly: Sum­mer Rains, 2006.

Late­ly, I’ve begun to mix up the names, recall­ing oper­a­tions that didn’t hap­pen (or at least not yet): Cast Iron, Pil­lars of the Walls, Clouds of Rain. I imag­ine a name­less kid in the Kirya, — though he is prob­a­bly no longer a teenag­er, his decade-old uni­form fit­ting awk­ward­ly now that he’s serv­ing in the reserves — chid­ing me from his desk as he sips from his grape-fla­vored soda. There’s a rea­son those names weren’t cho­sen. I crossed them out from the list that I got from the Ran­dom Name Generator.”

Then I pic­ture a new kid, a girl, serv­ing in that role today. She is typ­ing on a key­board from the same office chair with the stained uphol­stery, ask­ing Chat­G­PT for new com­bi­na­tions to replen­ish the nev­er-end­ing list. Give me seri­ous-sound­ing names that don’t car­ry any mean­ing, but can be repeat­ed in the media, social and unso­cial alike, and that, once exhaust­ed, we will all work hard to forget.” 


Accord­ing to some cus­toms, only the head of the house wash­es their hands. 

While the rest of us were try­ing to look for our faults, and while the chiefs of the army, the Shin Bet, the Mossad, and the heads of every city, kib­butz and com­mu­ni­ty, pub­licly acknowl­edged their fail­ures and began to make amends, our stu­dious Prime Min­is­ter washed his hands. 

With­out even get­ting up from his chair. 

How easy!” I hear him adding in his char­ac­ter­is­tic bari­tone, maybe even with an arro­gant wink. It didn’t even need a blessing.” 


You may skip it this year, when yel­low rib­bons punch our hearts, and pen­dants hang heavy from our necks, and our eyes have dried from tears. 


No need to break the mid­dle matzah, either. We’re already bro­ken, the edi­fice of our nation crushed. We are busy find­ing our way out of the rub­ble, rely­ing only on each oth­er, giv­en the incom­pe­tence of our politi­cians and the indif­fer­ence of so much of the world.


We want to tell the sto­ry, but do you want to listen? 

That’s okay. In the mean­time, we will focus on remem­ber­ing, and pre­serv­ing; help­ing, con­sol­ing, cry­ing, and try­ing to heal.

One day, all this will become a coher­ent nar­ra­tive. An account that cap­tures the hail­storm upon Kissu­fim, and the swarms of white pick-ups befalling Be’eri. One that pre­serves the blood in the ditch­es near Reim, and the pesti­lence that lin­gered for weeks in Nachal Oz. A sto­ry of the dark­ness in Khan Yunis, Sajaiya, and Jabalia. And that remem­bers the deaths of the first­borns, and of the mid­dle-and-last-borns, and even of the unborn sons and daugh­ters everywhere.

We will set the tale on the last day of Sukkot and con­tin­ue through the chang­ing sea­sons; through the non­stop rains and into that spring when the red pop­pies in the south bent their heads in soli­tude; when the cycla­mens in the north took cov­er under rocks, and yel­low wild­flow­ers bloomed in the Hostages Square. 

We tell this tale, but we will also ask ques­tions and hope for answers. Answers more spe­cif­ic than in every gen­er­a­tion, they rise to anni­hi­late us.

In the mean­time, we will con­dense lives into say­ings and print stick­ers with pho­tos of youth and light, past­ing them to bus stops, lamp­posts, win­dows, and T‑shirts. We will remem­ber Yonatan, Ori, Eden, Lavi, Uri­ah, Moti, and Aner. And we will do this hun­dreds of times, 1,400 times over, for as long as it’s nec­es­sary, and until the Spokesperson’s Office stops releas­ing names for publication. 


This time, please get up and wash your hands, even if sym­bol­i­cal­ly. Rid your­self of the injus­tice, the cal­lous­ness, the pas­siv­i­ty. Only then will you be ready to give new mean­ing to the parts of the seder that follow.


A reminder that, unlike the 133 hostages, we have enough to eat.


Half a pita with za’atar.

Then bring all the food to the table. No need for the seder plate anymore.


Choose any­thing from the table. Because this year, every­thing is bit­ter. Even the charoset

Why is this night dif­fer­ent from oth­er nights? This was the year where Hanukkah was dark, and Purim was joy­less. This seder night, we can only think of those who are not free.


It’s okay if you can only take one bite. Call it your sol­i­dar­i­ty sandwich. 

Shulchan Orech

Togeth­er we will win. So togeth­er, start grab­bing all the food — the sal­ads, the meat­loaf, the kugels, the gefilte fish, even the kit­niy­ot—and turn them into food pack­ages. Then go out and give them to the needy.

Con­sid­er leav­ing your door open — just in case the prophet Eli­jah stops by. 


The seder can­not con­tin­ue, because even if you think you’ve found the afiko­man, there’s still 133 pieces left. 


You may sigh instead.


Here, too.


In the hopes that next year, we will read from the tra­di­tion­al Hag­gadah in Jerusalem. And in Metu­la, Kiry­at Shmona, Kfar Blum, Nahal Oz, Nir Oz, Netiv Haasara, Saad, Man­ara, Kfar Gila­di, Kfar Azza, Reim, Kissu­fim, Yiron, Be’eri, Sderot, Gvu­lot and Ofakim. 

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.