| Cut ‘n Paste |

Counting Every Day    

    To feel, to partake, to attest, I count

Every morning, I write a number in black Sharpie on a thin strip of masking tape and press it to my shirt. Today is somehow 135. Tomorrow will likely be 136. Each figure marks the number of days that kidnapped children, women, and men — babies and elderly — have remained in brutal captivity under Hamas. It also marks the number of days since Hamas viciously tortured and killed 1,200 Israelis on October 7, igniting the devastating war in Gaza.

I started this ritual on Day 100, following a rousing post by Rachel Goldberg, the vocal mother of captive Hersh Goldberg-Polin. In it, she appealed to viewers to don the number should we reach Day 100.

We did. And we’ve long passed it. When I consider how crazy it is that I’ve been doing this for five weeks, I immediately shift to how surreal it is that the hostages have been captive four times as long.

I thought that posting the number on my shirt would simply pay homage to the hostages, one small thing I could do to draw attention to their plight and to the war at large. Wherever I go, the number is emblazoned for all to see — my yellow star. It elicits brief comments from friends and acquaintances, who either ask what it signifies or nod somberly with understanding.

Strangers don’t ask, though. Not the bank teller, who notarized a document while I sat at her desk; nor my kids’ pediatrician, who saw us three days in a row; nor the women I work out with multiple times a week at the gym.

While too few ask its significance, the thin strip of adhesive I replace each morning has cemented its implication for me. Since October 7, my world has narrowed in on Israel. My morning news briefing has focused on developments there; my choice of podcasts has shifted to news and commentary on the situation. I’m headed to Israel soon on a mission. But since I’ve started counting the days, I have found myself truly reckoning them.

Each day marks the death of the one before; another 24 hours of real life stolen from the captives. While I am busy with my daily routine, the hostage captives have been deprived of that — and much more. Every day, I have food to eat. I breathe fresh air. I sleep in my bed. I am surrounded by my family. I have my freedom. But from little Kfir Bibas, who just turned one, to Shlomo Mansour, age 85, the hostages have none of these. For 135 days and counting.

My children are also more cognizant. They know there’s a war in Israel; they’ve written letters to soldiers, and they recite prayers and Tehillim in school each day. But now, each morning, they count along with me. Every so often, they remind me to write out the day’s number. Some of my children are too young to understand the situation, and certainly too young to be explained its brutality, but I appreciate that this creates a subtle and constant awareness for them.

At night, once the tag has fulfilled its transitory duty, it finds a new home on my kitchen wall, where columns of black numbers are forming. The second or third day in, I hesitated before discarding the tag.

This is too sanctified to toss, I decided, and I stuck it on the wall above my phone charger. Ironically, that space lies just beneath our family calendar — a double counting — and as the weeks and months pass, the days mournfully accrue. Like a prisoner’s accounting — but figures, instead of strokes, adorn my wall.

I see these numbers every morning, I see them every night.

I count, and every day reinforces the awareness of just how many days have elapsed. I count, and feel the captives’ torturous suffering increasing day by day. I count, and know that each setting sun decreases their chances of survival and freedom.

To feel, to partake, to attest, I count.


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 1000)

Oops! We could not locate your form.