At a very early morning hour, in the 1960s, I showed up at the door of a northern Tel Aviv family. I was Yedioth Ahronoth’s military correspondent at the time and it was the morning after an IDF operation in the north that claimed the lives of several soldiers. One of the fatalities was a member of that family.
My job back then was to ask for a photograph and “a few words” about the fallen soldier. I viewed this request and the publication that followed as a way to honor and commemorate those who paid with their lives for the State of Israel’s and my own security.
Through the door, in that northern Tel Aviv home, I heard a girl laughing. I stepped back for a second: Is it possible that the family had not yet been notified of the tragedy? I knocked. A girl in a school uniform opened the door, and in those horrifying seconds I realized I arrived too soon.
“Yes?” asked the girl, apparently surprised by the early hour and uninvited guest. “Is this where the Abramovitch family lives?” I asked, purposely giving the wrong name. “What number are you looking for?” She asked. “Five,” I said. “This is number three,” she responded, and I rushed away down the stairs.
At that moment, I spotted the officer sent in to inform the family heading towards the apartment. A few moments later, I heard the screams of pain.
For dozens of years, as a military correspondent, I visited the homes of families during the Shiva. I was sent to hundreds of homes, until I broke down and cut a deal with the Enlistment Base commander, the late Moshe Tamir. He understood my distress, and for some time provided me, unofficially, with photographs taken on the day the fallen soldiers joined the army.
Hitting new lowsSo why am I writing about this now? I recently read about Knesset Member Shai Hermesh’s initiative to propose a bill that would prevent media outlets from converging upon bereaved families at their difficult hours. I don’t know whether such law is worthy. I do know that there are some Press Council regulations that nobody adheres to or plans to adhere to.
Our media outlets have lost their compassion and hit new lows, crossing all red lines in a state where loss of life is part of the daily agenda. The most appropriate move would be for media outlets to agree on a written and signed pact, thereby making a new law needless. Yet if the media are unwilling to do it, let us have a law that restrains the rush to the bereaved home.
I live near Rona Ramon’s home. The day her son Assaf was killed, in the afternoon, I saw the journalists and mostly photographers gathered around the house. I was livid with anger. As far as I was concerned at that moment, the media might as well go up in flames.
Yet why am I complaining? I was the first to rush to the homes of bereaved families when I was a journalist. So how can I blame others today? So here is my unimpressive response: This is not what we thought back then, and I apologize and ask for the forgiveness of all the hundreds of families, even if I did not hurt them. I remember each and every one of them. All these families, and all their fallen sons.