By Leah Garber
We give special emphasis to round numbers that mark birthdays, anniversaries, and yahrzeits. Numbers ground us; they provide a perspective for the time that has passed, a mirror to what has changed.
On Sunday we marked 100 days since that Sabbath, which is known as “Black Sabbath” and forever will be remembered as “the massacre“.
One hundred days!
I stood in the rain together with 100,000 people who filled the streets of central Tel Aviv. We gathered at Hostage Square, the horrifying new name given to the Tel Aviv Museum Square since it became the main site presenting exhibits related to the hostages, including the table set for Shabbat that awaits the return of all the hostages.
My eyes kept tearing but not because of the blowing wind that howled around us. My body shivered but not because of the cold and the rain. On the contrary, the crowd’s intimacy was warm among the 100,000 people who gathered from all over the country on a cold Saturday night to remember and remind us all that 100 days and 100 nights have passed, and 136 hostages are still held in captive by Hamas. That warmth was comforting but not enough to ease the pain.
We stood and listened as the families of the hostages talked about their loved ones. One was kidnapped and seriously injured, and who knows how he is now. Did his condition deteriorate while in captivity? Another was supposed to undergo surgery. How will the postponement affect his health? A third is elderly, in need of medication. Eighteen-year-old Agam, one of the hostages released after 50 days in captivity, read a letter she wrote to her friends who remain in captivity, asking if the Hamas terrorists continue to harass them—pulling them to strip, taking control over their bodies, humiliating them.
And so, stories followed stories, weaving together a monstrous, horrific nightmare.
The gathering was scheduled to be a 24-hour event, featuring stories of all the hostages, offering space for all the cries, for the endless tears.
After standing in the rain and wind, we arrived home late, tired and wet. However, the steamy hot shower and the soft bed did not calm the chills. It will take more than that to ease the pain, heal the soul.
I laid in bed and thought about my brothers and sisters who have been in Gaza for a hundred days. How dare I enjoy the comforts my safe home offers me, knowing they don’t have a hot shower or a soft bed to warm them.
I thought of the mothers who stood at the rally and begged and pleaded: “Bring our children back.” I believed Yelena Trupanov, whose husband was murdered on October 7, and who herself was held hostage in Gaza for 54 days. At the rally, Yelena said: “It was easier for me to be a prisoner in Gaza than to be here knowing Sasha is there. I am prepared to return to Gaza in exchange for my only son, Sasha. Sasha is all I have left in the world.”
For 100 days these stories have taken over my world, our world.
I can’t allow myself to truly enjoy anything, to be genuinely happy, to laugh out loud. It’s been 100 days that my heart has been broken into so many pieces.
Some days my broken heart cries the pain of the hostages, crawling along with them in the dark tunnels, imagining life underground, devoid of time, airless, hopeless.
On other days my broken heart is devastated with pain for the fallen soldiers, imagining their families, whose whole world turned upside down the moment they received the terrible news.
At night my aching heart cries for children who lost their parents. And in the mornings, my heart cries for all the women who have had their bodies violated. As I sit and write these lines, the chill does not leave, the cold is so deep, piercing and sharp.
It’s been 100 days since our hearts were crushed, and we can’t find the strength to restore it, to fuse together the fragments. Nor can we find the reason to do so.
Imagine what could have been accomplished in a hundred days.
You could have completed a trip around the world. Eighty days would be sufficient, in fact.
Babies born on October 7 have already learned to roll over, smiled their first smile. By now they recognize mom’s voice, dad’s touch.
Children who started first grade have already learned to read and write.
Planted seedlings are budding, fruits have ripened, and migratory birds have stopped by to visit, warmed their feathers and spread their wings to head toward warmer lands.
Summer is over, autumn is gone, winter is here. All this in 100 days.
It’s been 100 days that an entire country has not been the same one it was until October 6.
On the 100th day, all workplaces stopped their activities for 100 minutes and held rallies in solidarity with the struggles of the families of the hostages.
The moon has completed more than three cycles around the earth, and the hostages have not yet returned home.
How did these 100 days pass?
How can it be that the sun shines every morning, as if nothing is broken? How is it that we’ve had 100 nights in which the stars twinkle as if the light hasn’t gone out.
One thousand Israeli artist assembled to sing together “הביתה | Bring Them Home,” Please join this outstanding prayer and sing with us:
Come back home, come back home
It’s time to come back,
from the mountains and foreign fields.
The day is fading and there is no sign.”
At the assembly on Saturday night, all the families recited the same desperate call. With each passing day, the lifeline of our loved ones gets shorter. We must bring them back home now, before it’s too late, before their light goes out forever.
And the crowds replied: Now, Now, Now.
Leah Garber is a senior vice president of JCC Association of North America and director of its Center for Israel Engagement in Jerusalem.