The State of Not Knowing
On the problem of prayer
This weekend, people have been sharing this article from an Israeli news site, which has preserved a terrible memorial in digital form: the chat stream from a WhatsApp group for a kibbutz among those attacked on October 7. The Nir Oz Community Chat was normally a place for the tight-knit neighborhood to share news, needs, invitations, happy updates—like any other good neighborhood. But on that shabbat morning, it was filled instead with horror, panic, and desperate cries for help.
The first thing they all do is rush into their safe rooms. There they wait for someone, anyone to come and help. One person asks, bitterly, “Can someone tell me where our acclaimed army is in all this?”
Meanwhile, everyone has realized for the first time that the safe rooms have a fatal flaw: They don’t lock from the inside. They were designed to protect against missiles, not terrorists. “How do you lock the safe room????” someone immediately asks. People throw out different suggestions: Shove something under the handle so it can’t be pushed down. Tie a rope around it, back away and hold tight.
Most nightmarish of all, when the terrorists are unable to find anyone, they burn the houses down. People report that the smoke is becoming unbearable. The walls are flame-proof, but they’re choking. Put a wet towel under the door, someone says. Do it now.
As some voices go silent and others continue, the chat fills with other names, other family and neighbors the participants are worrying about. When news arrives that the army is finally on its way, people immediately start texting directions for where to go—to this relative who’s injured, to that neighbor who’s alone, to that family with young kids who stopped answering messages. Someone asks, “Please check what is happening with Efrat, Gidi and Doron who are with 2 small girls and there’s been no connection for over two hours!!”
We now know that this entire family was taken among the hostages.
After Saturday, there are only two messages shown from Sunday. “Please,” someone is asking, “what about family [blacked out] It can’t be possible that nobody has any information about them, there’s been no contact since 10am.”
“Rony,” a woman replies, “we are all stuck in a state of not knowing.”
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