All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Sunday, 22 April 2007

22,305

Twenty Two thousand, three hundred and five.

People usually equate Jews with numbers. Sooner or later, in most coversations between Jews, we will start to bring up numbers - whether we're talking about financial issues or simply comparing the number of children or grandchildren we have.

Numbers.

Jews.

You know, it is bizarre. The Torah has a big issue with people being counted as part of a group. We are specifically told not to count people, or give them a number because this process de-humanises them. In fact, the donation of the half-shekel by every single member of the Children of Israel in the desert is precisely as a result of needing to count the people without resorting to numbering them. In this way, the people who did the counting knew that one hundred shekels meant that there were one hundred members of a particular family.

Hearkening back to the 60's show, The Prisoner, the title character always uttered the immortal line "I am a person, not a number". We are all people not digits.

Sixty or so years ago, the Nazis decided to hurt us in the most cruel manner. Aside from ripping us away from our families, they branded us with numbers. I know that when I see a Survivor's number of his or her forarm, my blood freezes.

But what really bothers me about this tattoo? Is it because I understand, or empathise with what the person must have gone through in a concentration camp, or is it rather as a result of knowing how alien the concept of numbering Jewish people, is, to me and my brethren?

You are no doubt asking yourself why I am resorting to discussing numbers. In fact, how can I title this blog "22,305", when I admit to you that I am discussing the number of people killed since 1860, when the Jews first left the walls of Jerusalem and started rebuilding the land of Israel.

Twenty two thousand, three hundred and five lives have been given up in the defense of the land of Israel, over the last one hundred and forty seven years. These are ordinary people, not particularly special. They are like you and me. They have, however, been killed for one and only reason - because they were trying to re-establish an ancient and rich civilization in a land that time had long passed by.

Not all of those killed have been Jews. There have been Christians and Muslims who make up the figure, but it really doesn't matter, because people are not numbers and numbers are certainly not people.

So when I write "22,305" and I refer to these numbers as being the people who died in defense of the land, I hope that I get across the immaterial meaning of this figure. One single life list would have been too many. Will the number next year mean any less, even if it is Heaven Forbid significantly higher? Or will the lives of all the people killed have just the same meaning?

Irrespective of who they were or what religion they practised, tonight and tomorrow, in the Land of Israel and all around the world, people who care about humans and not numbers will mourn the loss of those who died because they had one thing in common.

And guess, what, it didn't involve any sort of number.

No comments: