Coping with terror: Why a young Israeli journalist writes obituaries for all those who died in terror

34-year-old Amy Spiro doesn't have much time.

Coping with terror: Why a young Israeli journalist writes obituaries for all those who died in terror

34-year-old Amy Spiro doesn't have much time. In her favorite café in Jerusalem, she keeps checking the messages flashing on her cell phone, mostly from her colleagues at the Times of Israel newspaper. She is also in contact with relatives of those killed by Hamas on October 7. Your newspaper has decided to publish obituaries of as many of the dead of terror as possible under the name “Those we have lost”. Amy Spiro writes most of them between news shifts in the newsroom and nights of fear and sadness. While talking about her work over the past few weeks, she keeps crying. Here Amy Spiro explains why she still takes on the emotional task.

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Israel is not only a small country, but we are also very connected - we know each other. Whenever there was a terrorist attack, when soldiers were killed, the faces of the deceased were memorized. They are remembered. Every single human life extinguished is a whole world in itself that is collapsing. When I saw the almost incomprehensible number of people from Israel killed and kidnapped on October 7, I thought: How can we ensure that these people are not forgotten? That we also anchor their faces in our memory and don't let them go down as one of many? Then we at the “Times of Israel” had the idea.

We now have three series of articles:  “Those We Call Heroes.” “Those We Miss,” about the hostages. And “Those We Lost.” I signed up to write the obituaries. I think it's important to learn about people not just how they were killed. But above all, how they lived. What they were passionate about, what they mean to other people.

In the first few days after the attack I felt like a zombie. The days blur together as I try to remember. Then I started writing a few articles about funerals. And now the obituaries. I do this in addition to my main work at the newspaper - there, for example, I also take care of what is currently happening in the conflict. There is so much to report and so little time.

I often write the obituaries after work at two or three in the morning. I have now written more than 50. Some of them are about individuals, some are about entire families that were wiped out. Other editors also write individual articles for this site. There are very special stories among them: A Holocaust survivor who was like a grandfather to his kibbutz. A young woman who wanted to be an actress. A woman from the Philippines who was here as a caregiver and financially supported her family back home. A Bedouin shot in Sderot while protecting two little girls - the children survived.

It is often the families and friends of the people who were killed who come to us with their stories. But we also research social media or scan the television interviews with the families. I'll then watch it in its entirety. It can be overwhelming to watch video after video about desperate families. There are so many deaths that I feel like I'm always behind, never writing enough, even though I hardly do anything else.

Between us, the more than 90 obituaries have not even covered 10 percent of those who died on October 7th, and more are still being identified. But we want to write an obituary about each and every one of them. I don't know if we can do it because some of them are very difficult to find information about. About people who had few or no relatives or foreign workers, for example from Thailand, whose language we don't speak. But we work every day to make this possible, we continue to research. There are also families who want to grieve in peace and quiet, without the public, and of course we respect that too.

I have yet to write an obituary about anyone close to me; no one close to me was killed in the terrorist attack. But I am connected to some of the people through corners.

For example, two young brothers – the children of the rabbi with whom I have been in synagogue a few times. I have known this rabbi for more than 10 years.

There are moments when I feel numb. I still cry almost every day. I'm someone who cries easily and I think that's a good thing for me because these things are indescribably sad. At work we talk a lot about taking good care of ourselves during these times, but of course that's not always possible. Especially when you're busy reporting on the situation. It feels like a nightmare that I can't wake up from.

People’s stories often still stick with me. For example, from a journalist who was able to record and send a video of one of the terrorists in a paraglider on the morning of the attack. He and his wife were killed. His young daughter is being held hostage in Gaza. His other two children hid and survived.

What I find difficult is weighing up the number of deaths. It is terrible how the civilian population is suffering in Gaza right now. This pitting of populations against each other, minimizing the suffering of those left behind on the other side, why is this being done all over the world? I see the suffering in Gaza and I want the sadness in Israel to be seen too.

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