Families have been notified
“Families have been notified” is a laconic sentence used to describe an unspeakable moment. Normally fearless Israelis are terrified of this moment, the knock on the door that changes everything, forever.
Can you imagine that knock on the door, when no one is expected to show up? Looking out, you see military uniforms and somber faces. Your heart begins to race. This is the experience you have heard about from others. The one experience you never dared think about, horror of horrors, the event you never want to have happen to you... but it is happening. This time, the nightmare is yours.
This time, the nightmare is yours.
Do you dare open the door? If you let them inside you know your life will be shattered. You don’t want to hear what they came to tell you. At the same time, you know that slamming the door in their face will not undo the reality that is about to step into your home.
The IDF never leaves a bereaved family to cope alone. A trained team goes to notify the family face to face. They are the ones who take the brunt of the family’s initial shock and all the emotions that rise up as a result – anything can happen from tears, rage, to physical collapse that necessitates emergency medical treatment.
I have heard so many stories of this awful moment. People who opened the door and, understanding what they were about to be told, instinctively slammed the door, as if that would keep the horrible news away. One mother told me that when she was notified about the death of her son, she fainted. When she revived she found herself lying on her couch but it seemed like she was in a black pit with demons pushing her down. She couldn’t get up, couldn’t hear anything that was happening around her, couldn’t talk.
I will never forget the teenager who described how the night before they were notified that his brother had been killed, he and his mother felt physically ill. The next day he was sitting in the window of their home and he saw the uniformed team walking to their door. He flew out of the house, screaming at them to go away, to not come any nearer to his home. He did not want to hear what he knew they were going to tell him. He did not want his mother to have to face them. He screamed at them in rage. They calmed him, hugged him and took him inside to speak with the rest of his family.
What a horrible job.
When people think of the heroes of the IDF, they usually think of combat soldiers, warriors who cross enemy lines on daring missions. Few think of those who have to cross the threshold of home after home, notifying families that their loved one is dead and never coming back. The burden of grief is not contained by the family alone, these soldiers share the burden, carrying pieces of grief and memory of shattered families with them, adding more with every new family they notify.
This is the moment every Israeli family dreads. This is the moment every Israeli family knows could come knocking at their door. Literally. Every Yom Zikaron the country counts how many households have had this experience. A relative, a friend, an acquaintance… not a single person in the country has been left untouched.
It would be easier to wallow in grief. To give up, lay down and die. But we don’t do that. This is the moment Israelis rise above.
Forest is a marketing and branding expert, the voice of Inspiration from Zion, contributor to the Elder of Ziyon website, The Counter Terrorist Magazine, The Jewish Press, Jews Down Under and The Valley Patriot. Forest Rain is the Content and Marketing Specialist for The Israel Forever Foundation.