For the body collectors of Israel’s Civil Administration, the horrors of their job go far beyond the nightmares they experience. Their role involves the heartbreaking task of entering Palestinian homes to collect the corpses of terror suspects, suicide bombers and other victims of terror attacks. It is a task they describe as “surreal” and “desolate,” something that leaves them filled with a sense of sorrow and despair.
The Civil Administration body collectors are often called by the military and the police when they are unable to enter a house to recover a body, whether due to security concerns or due to the state of the body being too badly decomposed.
The collectors must enter homes filled with emotions and memories, accompanied by a strong smell of death. They must then take the body away, often in front of bereft family members who are in shock and disbelief. As they carry out their work, they experience a profound sense of sadness, regret and helplessness. They have seen countless horrors and all they can do is remove the body and go home. For many, this experience is so emotionally devastating that when they return home they can’t help but break down in tears.
The body collectors, although performing an important and necessary role, do not often receive recognition for the difficult work they do. They work in the shadows, quietly tackling the horrors of death. They rarely speak of their gruelling experiences, preferring to be forgotten in the face of the traumatic nature of the job.
However, the job they perform is invaluable, and without them, many more families would be unable to receive proper closure in difficult times. Despite the horrors that they witness, the body collectors of Israel are a testament to the courage and dedication of those who put their own mental and physical well-being at risk in order to honour the dead.