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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Israeli rabbis work across the clock — even on the Sabbath — to rely the {dead} from Hamas assault

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SITRIYA, Israel — Hardly ever do rabbis spend the Sabbath counting our bodies. However on Saturday, per week after Hamas militants blew simply previous Israel’s fortified safety fence and gunned down a whole lot of Israelis — at music festivals, of their houses, in vehicles whereas making an attempt to flee — Israel’s navy rabbinate made an exception.

At Shura navy base in central Israel, our bodies have been coming in sooner than the rabbis can determine them. Lots of of troopers, girls, and youngsters in physique luggage line cabinets of refrigerated vans, awaiting examination. Identification groups collect on plastic stools reverse the vans to take smoke breaks between shifts. They put on heavy fuel masks — the scent of loss of life is overwhelming.

“Usually, Jewish regulation says that you simply can’t break the Sabbath for a {dead} individual,” stated Rabbi Israel Weiss, who helps lead the operation. “The exception is when a household is doubtful, and the loss of life is so crippling that it might danger the household’s lives. Then, you could work on the Sabbath to determine the physique and convey solutions to the household.”

Now, the most effective the nation can supply the households of some 1,300 folks killed by Hamas militants is closing affirmation that their family members are {dead}.

The method was persevering with Sunday and will take months, employees stated. Some our bodies are so disfigured that they can’t be recognized. Every should bear DNA testing, a activity made tougher by the truth that the navy doesn’t have a DNA database for civilians. Solely half the civilians have been recognized so far, rabbis stated.

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Searching for the ultimate phrase on their family members, households throughout Israel have flocked to hospitals to offer DNA samples within the hope that they are often matched to the our bodies at considered one of a number of bases across the nation receiving the {dead}.

The household of Maayan Mualem needs solutions. The final they heard, Maayan had been shot within the again by Hamas fighters who burst into the open discipline of the music pageant she attended, gunning down partygoers in an open discipline. Her household spent an entire day looking out Soroka Medical Heart in southern Israel to search out her physique, solely to return up quick.

“For 12 hours till midnight, we went division by division, mattress by mattress, and she or he wasn’t there,” stated Raz Mualem, Maayan’s brother.

Final week, the household filed right into a police station outdoors of Tel Aviv to offer DNA samples. They hope to obtain phrase from the rabbinate that it’s a match.

“The state of Israel will put in any effort that’s potential, cash, sources, so that each fallen soldier and citizen can be acknowledged,” stated Weiss. “Till we attain the purpose that no mom is left crying over the grave of her son or daughter, having any type of doubt that it may not be them.”

Rabbis haven’t labored on the Sabbath since 2005, stated Weiss, when the rabbinate disinterred graves from a cemetery in an Israeli settlement in Gaza that residents evacuated as a part of Israel’s unilateral withdrawal on the time. Hamas gained Palestinian elections in 2006, and the next yr, it seized management of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority.

Practically twenty years later, the militant group remains to be in energy in Gaza, and the rabbinate was once more at work on the Sabbath.

Groups of reservists, some as younger as 23, work across the clock figuring out our bodies. Previous to the assault, some labored as dentists, some had been college students, some labored at tech firms. Now, they spend their days in white hazmat fits.

“The reservists go residence at night time and attempt to unsee what they’ve seen right here,” stated Capt. Maayan, a 40-year-old dentist from Tel Aviv who works on a crew figuring out the our bodies of ladies. Maayan, whose final identify couldn’t be printed beneath navy rules, stated that on considered one of her shifts she unzipped a physique bag to search out considered one of her former sufferers staring up at her.

“Nobody ought to should see what we see right here, and what we are going to by no means cease seeing,” she stated, beginning to cry.

The method of figuring out troopers has gone extra rapidly, identification groups stated. Troopers give DNA samples at first of their service, making them simpler to determine. In accordance with the navy, 90% of {dead} troopers — 265 our bodies — have been recognized. However the our bodies preserve coming in.

“There are nonetheless so many our bodies piled. It’s limitless,” stated Senior Workers Sgt. Avigail, who’s 48 and from Tel Aviv and as soon as labored on the phone firm. Her crew operates in shifts, 4 girls at a time. On the finish of the day, Avigail stated, her crew consults with psychologists and social employees to attempt to grapple with the horrors of the day.

Her voice quivering, she described how employees had determined to not carry out the ritual cleaning of {dead} our bodies beneath Jewish regulation.

“We don’t carry out the ritual on the individuals who had been murdered,” she stated. “Anybody who died on this method is already thought of pure.”

A number of the our bodies have been delivered to Mount Herzl, Israel’s nationwide cemetery in Jerusalem. On Saturday night time, the location was shrouded in a mist so thick it blurred streetlights. Nonetheless, the freshly dug graves had been seen, illuminated by harsh floodlights to assist the navy guard close by preserve shut watch.

Within the morning, the digging would start once more. However for now, they sat hunched, arms on their weapons — younger troopers conserving watch over the graves of younger troopers.

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