Basya Gartenstein

Hearing about death; An out-of-body experience  

Three Israeli boys, A Chabad Rabbi, 228 Gazan civilians,13 Israeli soldiers. Each death a dagger in my heart, ripping deeper than the most powerful missiles.

Staring at my fluorescent computer screen I am haunted by the eyes that will never see, by hearts that will never again beat.

With each report of a death, my heart skips a beat, I hold my breath.

In that moment there is no sadness, no fear, no anger, no vengeance, just the limbo between my hopes for calm and the reality which awaits me.

Like a fog, acceptance hovers before me. A dark looming cloud, heavy with sorrow.

For a moment time is suspended, I am free floating in emptiness.

My heart aches for any explanation but the impending reality.

A choice.
How to digest that these lives have abruptly ended?

And breath…
It pierces my nostrils, stings my lungs, and seeps into every cell of my being.
With each thump the dagger digs deeper.

How can one ever heal from so much pain, from the echo of hundreds of losses?

But time…
It can heal.
Not because it’s easy, but because it is my responsibility. 

The mind digests, the heart begins to internalize, as I allow this burden to rest upon my shoulders.

These lives will not amount to dust.

On Shabbat, I light my candles, and as I stare into the golden lights, the warmth of your souls stare back.
The aching void of sorrow gradually fills with hope.
I cannot bring you back, but I can take this experience and channel its effect on me into creating a better future.

With every break of my heart, with every catch in my breath, you are all there with me, moving me into what comes next.

You do have a future. In my hopes, my aspirations…my vision for the future you should have had.
You are creating it alongside me.
I will heal, but I won’t forget.


About the Author
Basya Gartenstein is pursuing her Master of Divinity at Yale Divinity School. She is simultaneously earning a Certificate in Educational Leadership and Ministry from Berkley Divinity School. After being awarded her Bachelor’s Degree in Conflict Resolution and International Relations from the IDC Herzliya, she served as the Jewish Service Corps Fellow through the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee with placements in Mumbai, India and Helsinki, Finland. Basya worked at the Muslim Jewish Conference from 2015-2017, facilitating dialogue between Muslims and Jews across the spectrum of religious and political identity. Interested in the intersection of scholarship and interreligious encounter, Basya is the president and co-founder of the Yale Divinity School Interfaith Club. In 2019, she was the recipient of the SALAM Sultan Qaboos Scholarship for Advanced Arabic Study and Intercultural Exchange. In 2020, she received the Critical Language Scholarship through the US State Department, to solidify her linguistic goals in the service of her broader vocational aspirations.
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