Following the hell in Gaza recalls Thoreau walking the hell of woods around Walden wherein he could hear the shots of slave catchers at work. And within that hell, he discovers a swamp lily. Then came the closing lines from Cavell’s Pitch of Philosophy and I turned instinctively to reread them. The lectures that make up the book were written for delivery in Jerusalem just a few years back at a time of repeated lethal bus bombings, hope-sapping carnage. The closing words are as delicate and searingly simple as I remembered them: a dedication uttered by an American Jew under dark encroachments of helplessness and despair:
To the memory of Yochanan Budick, a friend to me, to Cathleen, to Benjamin, and to David, each differently. His life in Jerusalem and his death there are bound up for me with the all but unbearable significance of the place. The first paragraph of a story carried by the Jerusalem papers on the day of Yochanan’s funeral reads, “The lives of two Jerusalemites and a woman from Ramallah were saved yesterday thanks to organ donations by a fifteen-year-old boy who died the day before at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital after a serious head injury.” — On a real ordinary day in Jerusalem, whatever else was happening, the end of the days of a young man of that city, a Jew, provided continuation of the days of, among others, an Arab woman from Ramallah. It rebukes hopelessness.