I can't remember who gave us that book, I just remember it was given for free and its arrival at our home made for a sad, moving moment.
It had no pictures. No plot. Just an endless list of names – the names of those lost in the recently-ended war. The Yom Kippur War.
That, essentially, was the plot of that book, of those times, when you think about it. I was barely 14, but I knew many of those names. Some from around town, some were my big brothers' friends, the sons of families we knew, graduates of the high school yeshiva I went to. We read a lot of books back then, but that one with its name, rank, parents, and place of residents was, by far, the most impressive one of all.
I go back to that book, to the moment it came to our door, every year, when television's channel 33 screens the names of all of Israel's fallen sons in the space of 36 hours. I'm glued to the screen, with the same look I had that day, in 1974, when I first read the big book of names, resonating with the horrific, heroic tale of victory and defeat, of lives lost too soon.
Over 2,500 names made up that book, its cover pale, silky as the great priest's robe on Yom Kippur; as the dead men's faces. Many of the names have crossed my path again with time: I would spot a name I first saw in that book while passing plaques on a school walls; or browsing obituaries printed annually by some of the families. The wording is always the same, and I look at the paper and remember. Remember going through that pale book.
We spent hours going through it. It sounds a little morbid and obsessive, but 1974 was a year of never-ending analysis of that war and the time preceding it.
Somber times were upon us then: The Agranat Commission was analyzing away, a government was elected and then replaced, political views crumbled and were reshaped; and we, eight-graders, found new photos on memorial plaques.
Every now and again, when the names and faces of those just fallen are added to the memorial lists, I go back to that unforgettable Israeli moment of mine, when the book arrived at our house. When we finished reading it, we put it back on the shelf, next to the holy scriptures.