It is a winter morning. In front of the Great Synagogue in Rome some friends meet with a smartphone and a tripod to do an interview with a witness who followed the tragic events of the Synagogue attack forty years ago in that very place. Emilia recounts everything she saw with her own eyes that day step by step, from the bombs, to the first aid, from the escape of the Palestinian terrorists, to the late arrival of the law enforcement. The guy filming the interview takes a few steps back to capture the full figure of the woman reenacting the events on the same stretch of road where they took place. Emilia suddenly stops the shot and forcefully asks him not to step back. “For forty years I’ve wondered why I feel annoyed when I see someone backing away. I just realized that that sense of discomfort comes from October 9, 1982. In front of the Synagogue I saw the terrorists begin to flee by backing away. And for me it is an unbearable memory.” From emotions to reason. The story alone helped Emilia understand how deep that wound still ran. A reminder from everyday life is like salt, and the wound starts aching again.
In the year that has just ended, the October 9 event has returned for various reasons and with great force, more vividly than ever in the collective memory of Roman Jews. The revelations about the case, casting disturbing shadows on the absence of surveillance in front of the Synagogue on the day of the attack, the unanswered questions, the lack of justice, the approach of the 40th anniversary, together with the widespread awareness that a path has not really been taken to finally make the memory a memory for all, have pushed many Roman Jews toward a work that aims to create a narrative, to write missing pages of the history of the entire Community. Gadiel Gaj Taché, the brother of little Stefano, who was killed by Palestinian terrorists in the October 9, 1982 attack, with his book Screaming Silence [Il silenzio che urla], published by Giuntina in 2022, has visited Jewish schools and various institutions to share the first real narrative that combines private accounts, documents and facts. Children worked on the story of Oct. 9; a Sefer Torah was dedicated to Stefano’s memory. The Rome Jewish community organized a variety of events and a conference to retrace and shed light on the historical and political aspects of the story. The Jewish Museum will keep a new documentary “It was a day of celebration” on loop for visitors. The documentary was also presented to students and to the Community. Individuals injured in the attack have continued to share their stories. A collective work that 40 years later attempts to reorganize the memories and makes the need to arrive at a truth even stronger.
At last we are experiencing an awakening of memory. We are looking at history, searching for explanations as to why on that October 9, the Roman Jews were left alone, abandoned under terrorist fire. For years we have been analyzing all the social, political, judicial implications of the event. An investigation in which the Community leadership is at the forefront of a dialogue with institutions in order to shed light on the events. In this process, however, it is also necessary to piece together a snapshot of the Community at the time. While on the one hand Roman Jews were united and committed to vindicating Israel’s motives during the Lebanon War, on the other were the voices that joined what Shalom called “the census of awareness.” Today those divisions are largely overcome; then it was Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff who led the Community in a rethinking of its role in society.
The difficult lesson of Oct. 9 reached everyone. They came to the full realization that “philosemitic anti-Zionism” is a contradiction in terms, as Bruno Zevi said in his memorable speech on the Capitoline Hill in the aftermath of the attack. Italian institutions also started on a processing path: when President Sergio Mattarella recalls, in the inaugural speech of his first seven-year term, Stefano Gaj Taché as “one of our children, an Italian child,” finally, with a push forward, the recognition of history is achieved.
In this special issue of Shalom Magazine dedicated to Oct. 9, 1982, we retrace the events, the political and judicial sequence of events, in the light of what we know today. We offer analysis and reflections on the absentees and the present in this affair; we listen to the voices of the children of the wounded; and we try to contribute to elaborating a narrative of our history, looking at 40 years ago from where we are today, without ever backing away.