BLEAK NIGHT

On February 4, 73 Israeli soldiers and airmen were killed when two helicopters collided near the Lebanese border. The national grief was palpable. The following commentary, by Ma'ariv editor Ya'acov Erez, appeared on the Hebrew-language newspaper's front page the next morning:

Just as it was with the Rabin murder, the Beit Lid attack, the Dizengoff Centre explosion, the initial report was low-key. "Two Cobra Helicopters have apparently collided in mid-air," said the report. It later became clear that two "Yasur" helicopters were involved, and reports spoke of twenty casualties. Then thirty. And fifty. And seventy, and more.

And you then try to turn that horrible number into something comprehensible, tangible. You search for a name, a face, perhaps an acquaintance. You search for all those things you do not want to find.

And you always do.

Because all those who are called the best of our boys are the best of our children. This night you searched for them. First, your own children. Afterwards your friends, and then their friends, and their children, and the friends of their children. An entire nation trembling by the phone.

These are the moments when Israel is not a nation. It is a shared home.

During this bleak night. Between the thunder and lightning and snow storms. During this foggy night, in which we skipped a number of heartbeats; during this morose and bitter night, in which all has been forgotten and in which we returned, for a single moment, to that which we truly are.

One people.

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