Unlike the noisy marches and demonstrations that marked last summer's wave of social protest, the march scheduled for Thursday, June 7, in Tel Aviv
will be especially quiet.
Hundreds of family members of people who committed suicide plan to meet in the center of the city at 8pm and start out on a march. The event is scheduled to take place a day before San Francisco's
"Out of the Darkness Overnight Walk," a similar event designed to raise awareness of suicide.
The purpose of the march is to symbolize the connection between Israel's silence about suicide, which event organizers say prevents society at large from addressing the issue.
"Not many people know, but each year between 400 and 500 people in Israel
commit suicide," says Debbie Tzafati of Nataf, a member of the association Path to Life, which is dedicated to raising public awareness of suicide.
"Actually, the numbers are bigger, since these are just the suicides that weren't hidden because of the shame attached to the issue. In a lot of places and cultures the deaths are portrayed as accidents to hide the fact that they were suicides."
According to Tzfati, every year hospitals in Israel take in some 4,000 cases of attempted suicide. "The number of suicides in Israel is larger than the number of people killed in car accidents or in the IDF," she says. "The purpose of our march is to turn on a 'red light.' We want people to talk about this. When you talk, you can take steps to prevent it."
Tzfati says that the goal of Path to Life is to persuade the nation to address suicide, as it has been proved that action can reduce the incidence of suicides. "For three years, a pilot in conjunction with the Health Ministry that operated in three cities managed to reduce the number of suicides," she explains.
"With this march, we are calling on the state to launch this program in other cities. Turn it into a national suicide prevention program. We want to help as many families as possible, so they won't wind up in our situation. We've already lost (our loved ones.)"
Noa Keren-Bracha, 36, of Tel Aviv lost her older brother Assaf to suicide 10 years ago. Assaf was a major in the IDF reserves, a talented musician, and host of a morning radio show. According to Keren-Bracha, there were no signs. "After his suicide my parents joined a support group run by the Association for Parents of Suicide Victims, and I joined after them," she says.
In time, Keren-Bracha became an activist in the association. She explains that the march is the "opening shot" in a campaign to raise awareness of the problem. "First of all, we're 'coming out.' This kind of loss isn't acknowledged in any way, by anyone, despite the fact that there is a successful national prevention program. Even though it doesn't require a lot of money, it wasn't approved this year," she says.