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Razi Hecker
“You Can Make Anything by Writing” - C.S Lewis

To Feel At Last

'God created the universe under the attribute of justice, but saw it could not survive...So, he added compassion to justice and created the world.' Rashi on Breishit 1:1. (https://thewalrus.ca/path-to-peace-israel-palestine)

If we win our independence, is that a guarantee of freedom for our descendants? Or will the blood we shed begin an endless cycle of vengeance and death with no defendants.

            — Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton”

I dismounted my bike, fingers prying the 65t Jabra earbuds out of my ears. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s voice faltered; the chilly Philadelphia suburb no longer melted by the music. Three hours earlier, two terrorists had open fired at a white car in the Jordan Valley. Maia Dee and Rina Dee were killed on the spot. Their mother, Lucy, was fatally wounded.

35 MPH – Steep Turn Ahead.

Passing cars slowed in confusion at the young man sobbing into his hands, bike offered to the gravel. At 6 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, my tears met quilted blankets as I watched the televised funeral. Days after, the scene repeated when Lucy was laid to rest.

Exactly six months later October 7th, I was in the United States once again.

As hundreds of thousands of Israelis met in cemeteries and army buddies hitchhiked to enemy borders, I was onboard LY26, an Israel-bound flight I’d purchased eight hours beforehand. Ten hours after landing, I reported to the IDF’s Center of Command in Tel Aviv, where I’d continue to serve in reserves for the next several months.

In Israel, gone were the protests that had divided this country. Back was the fledgling state of ’48, the endangered country of ’67, the terrorized people of ’73. A United Nation, a Jewish people that has collectively watched antisemitism hit new highs, forced to witness the word “genocide” cruelly weaponized against a nation that has truly paid its price. A side filled with pain and tears and anguish. A side filled with newfound unity in despair, a new understanding of the words “Never Again.”

A side that’s true, justified in our war to remove evil.

And yet.

In between long days in the military and late-night talks with my roommates (one stationed in Gaza, the other by Ramallah), I thought about the people on the other side of the wall. The side that has witnessed 34,000 dead, 70,000 injured and counting (according to Hamas’s unverifiable numbers, to be sure). A people forced to sleep in makeshift tents destroyed from winter rain, whose hands dutifully pick out flies and dirt from bird feed to make bread for hungry children. And whether from poor internal political decisions or Israeli aggression — or an endless cycle of the two — it is a side that objectively has suffered more than ours. Where stunted fingers bleed from digging through rubble to find loved ones, and where weathered hands whisper final blessings atop wooden caskets perennially too small.

And from the relative comfort of our side, through the veracity of our narrative, of our pain and our trauma, everything else melts away. “Civilian deaths” are reduced to “Hamas’s human shields” and Israeli news grasps at straws to uncover fresh horror from October 7th as we generate an endless supply so close by.

Last week, my friend scoffed when I mentioned the fear that all Gazans feel. Does justice strip Gazans of the ability to fear? When a 16-year-old Palestinian who stabbed an Israeli civilian was shot and killed, a friend of mine posted on LinkedIn; “He will be missed by no one.” Does necessity render millions of Palestinians unable to mourn the deaths of loved ones, incapable of crying over bombed homes?

Did Golda Meir not acknowledge that killing children is more detrimental to our collective psyche than the loss of our own? Does our Talmud not recall God admonishing the angels for rejoicing at the fall of the Egyptians? Has our Torah failed to instruct us to “not rejoice at the fall of your enemy”? Did Devorah the prophetess not pause her song to sit with the pain of the mother of Sisera, the evil general from the book of Judges? Was his death justified? Necessary? Certainly. But even Sisera was missed by his mother.

Has Hamas not only killed our families, taken our children, and destroyed our homes — have they extricated our sense of humanity as well?

And thus, we’ve incurred a debt. Even, if necessary, even if justified, a debt nonetheless. A debt inevitable after killing tens of thousands of people, a similar debt owed after occupying millions of people, and forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

And with our debt comes a promise that these deaths are not in vain, that someone, somehow perennially out of reach, lies a future of peace and dignity. So, I write, out of some far-fetched hope that these words can impossibly advance a sweltering debt that my hands alone cannot repay yet may spend the rest of their lives trying to. And maybe, these hands will somehow distance our precarious world from the cynical prophecy of Hamilton, and nudge it, ever so delicately, to MLK’s future, when:

“…all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning….[when] we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children…Jews and Gentiles…will be able to join hands and sing: Free at last, Free at last, Great God almighty, We are free at last.”

About the Author
After finishing his B.A in Near Eastern Language and Civilizations at Harvard University, Razi moved to Israel and soon after enlisted in the IDF's Research Intelligence Unit. From religious angst in high school, wearing tzitzit in college, navigating Tel Aviv and the army, and even learning in Yeshiva, Razi uses creative short stories as a mouthpiece to express his struggles, thoughts, and goals.
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