These four videos (in Hebrew with English subtitles) are part of a series of seven spots made for Israel’s leading television station in the middle of a wave of terrorist bombings. The Rabbinical establishment in Israel offered no substantive response to the bombings. Issues of ritual purity, “Is this or that brand of tuna fish kosher?” sucked the energy from the Rabbinate’s ethical center.
It was Marc Gafni’s passionate belief that as important as issues of ritual purity may be, there was an overriding ethical imperative to respond to the pain and tragedy that the people of Israel were experiencing both as individuals and as a collective.
One woman called Marc Gafni with the following question. “My daughter’s birthday party is at five o’clock this afternoon. A bus just blew up near my house. Two friends of my daughter were killed. Should I have the birthday party?” This was a compelling Jewish question that needed addressing, and the Rabbis were lost, obsessing as to how kosher the tuna fish might be…
At around the same time, Marc Gafni was at an evening dinner in the home of some prominent Israeli leaders. They asked him a strange question. “How can we ethically remain in this country? Even if we are willing to endanger our own lives, how can we risk the lives of our children?” To which Marc Gafni responded without a moment’s hesitation, “For the sake of your grandchildren.”
As a result, a decision was made to film a series of television spots that Channel Two, Israel’s leading station, would be able to air in the event―God forbid―of another terrorist attack. The television spots were an attempt to create a shared spiritual language, which would not “explain” the tragedy, but would give the horror a context of spirit in which it could be suffered.
Sadly, there were many more attacks. These spots were often deployed on Israeli television in the immediate aftermath of an attack. According to the unusually high ratings which they received, they were, thank god, in some small way, for at least some people, able to provide some field of meaning in which to experience together the horror of terrorism.