There was little in “Bearing Witness to the October 7 Massacre” — a 43-minute video compiled by the Israel Defense Forces — that I had not seen before the Israeli consulate’s invitation-only screening on Nov. 9.
Much of the content — and even more graphic evidence of the atrocities committed by Hamas — has been accessible online. Some of it has appeared in U.S. and Israeli newscasts.
For me, the most emotionally wrenching material is not the photos and video recorded on Oct. 7 and in the aftermath of the carnage at kibbutzim and towns in Southern Israel and the Nova music festival in the nearby desert. Listen to interviews with Yossi Landau, the Southern region commander in ZAKA, the Israeli first responder organization, whose volunteers respond to mass casualty incidents, where they recover the bodies and body parts, to honor the dead, in keeping with Jewish tradition.
I will not quote or paraphrase what Landau, who has worked search and rescue operations at natural disasters and terror attacks around the world, said ZAKA found at these sites. But if you want to understand why Israelis are so viscerally angry, search online for interviews with Landau.
“Bearing Witness” includes video from Kibbutz Be’eri, where upwards of 110 bodies are reported to have been recovered, out of a population of slightly more than 1,100. Dozens are missing and presumed to be held captive in Gaza. Meanwhile, the grim work of identifying the bodies of victims continues.
I had seen the video of the Hamas terrorists shooting a motorist and pushing through the kibbutz gates, then prowling the grounds of the kibbutz, founded in 1946. I had seen the video of the homes burned to the ground and the blood-streaked hallways and rooms in others.
That was before I knew the extent of my family connection to the horror at Kibbutz Be’eri.
At this writing, funerals have been held for two men and a woman. Still missing and presumed to be in Gaza are the wife of one of the men — along with their daughter, her husband, and two small children, as well as the sister of that man and her daughter (all of whom were visiting from elsewhere in Israel).
I could only hope that the video in “Bearing Witness” from Kibbutz Be’eri was not of their homes.
I am in touch with several of the Israeli cousins, including two that I met when they and members of other hostage families visited Atlanta. I have had glimpses of the strain they are under and the fortitude they are mustering as this ordeal — in its 38th day as I file this column —continues.
This is the 14th article or column that I have written for the AJT related to the events of Oct. 7 and Israel’s war against Hamas. The 13th was about that screening of “Bearing Witness.”
Before I went, my family asked: Why are you doing this? Why would you subject yourself to what you already know will be a difficult-to-watch video? Why do you need to do this?
I am in touch with several of the Israeli cousins, including two that I met when they and members of other hostage families visited Atlanta. I have had glimpses of the strain they are under and the fortitude they are mustering as this ordeal — in its 38th day as I file this column — continues.
Part of their concern is rooted in my health. After my heart attack in April, I did not write anything for more than two months. I resumed writing my column in late June, about three weeks after robotic bypass surgery. I did not write an article (as distinct from my column) until mid-August.
So, they were not unduly concerned by the sudden uptick in my work, in the amount of time spent in my home office, since Oct. 7.
At the top of the list of things I should avoid, even more than fried foods, is stress. Journalism comes with an inherent degree of stress. I try to take care, but still, there’s the story.
As to why I would watch what any rational person would consider a horror show, I don’t want to be glib and say, it’s because that’s what I do. I don’t want to sound noble and say that I do this to bear witness, on behalf of the community or people who read this newspaper. I understand why better in my kishkes, to use the Yiddish, than I can explain it aloud.
This is an important story for the Jewish community. For shy of nine years, I have written for Jewish publications, primarily for the AJT. I am grateful that my health permits me to continue practicing journalism.
I am not inured to the violence in “Bearing Witness” but over 40 years of my professional work, I have learned — with exceptions I remember all too well— how to keep my emotions in check, as best possible, and concentrate on telling the story. So, when asked, I agreed to write about the video.
This required no courage on my part. The Israeli cousins — and the missing family members — are the ones displaying courage.
I am writing about the events of Oct. 7 and after. They are living it.