December 4, 2023

By Julia Frankel | Related Press

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

At Shura army base in central Israel, our bodies have been coming in quicker than the rabbis can establish them. Lots of of troopers, girls, and kids in physique baggage 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 gasoline masks — the odor of loss of life is overwhelming.

“Usually, Jewish regulation says that you simply can not break the Sabbath for a useless individual,” mentioned Rabbi Israel Weiss, who helps lead the operation. “The exception is when a household is unsure, and the loss of life is so crippling that it could danger the household’s lives. Then, you have to work on the Sabbath to establish the physique and produce solutions to the household.”

Now, the very best the nation can supply the households of some 1,300 folks killed by Hamas militants is ultimate affirmation that their family members are useless.

The method was persevering with Sunday and will take months, staff mentioned. Some our bodies are so disfigured that they can’t be recognized. Every should endure DNA testing, a job made harder by the truth that the army doesn’t have a DNA database for civilians. Solely half the civilians have been recognized up to now, rabbis mentioned.

In search of the ultimate phrase on their family members, households throughout Israel have flocked to hospitals to provide DNA samples within the hope that they are often matched to the our bodies at one in all a number of bases across the nation receiving the useless.

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 area of the music pageant she attended, gunning down partygoers in an open area. Her household spent a complete 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 he or she wasn’t there,” mentioned Raz Mualem, Maayan’s brother.

Final week, the household filed right into a police station outdoors of Tel Aviv to provide 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 doable, cash, sources, so that each fallen soldier and citizen can be acknowledged,” mentioned Weiss. “Till we attain the purpose that no mom is left crying over the grave of her son or daughter, having any form of doubt that it may not be them.”

Rabbis haven’t labored on the Sabbath since 2005, mentioned 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 12 months, it seized management of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority.

Practically 20 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 corporations. Now, they spend their days in white hazmat fits.

“The reservists go house at night time and attempt to unsee what they’ve seen right here,” mentioned Capt. Maayan, a 40-year-old dentist from Tel Aviv who works on a workforce figuring out the our bodies of ladies. Maayan, whose final title couldn’t be revealed beneath army laws, mentioned that on one in all her shifts she unzipped a physique bag to search out one in all her former sufferers staring up at her.

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

The method of figuring out troopers has gone extra shortly, identification groups mentioned. Troopers give DNA samples at first of their service, making them simpler to establish. In keeping with the army, 90% of useless troopers — 265 our bodies — have been recognized. However the our bodies hold coming in.

“There are nonetheless so many our bodies piled. It’s infinite,” mentioned Senior Employees Sgt. Avigail, who’s 48 and from Tel Aviv and as soon as labored on the phone firm. Her workforce operates in shifts, 4 girls at a time. On the finish of the day, Avigail mentioned, her workforce consults with psychologists and social staff 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 useless our bodies beneath Jewish regulation.