Thursday, 20 August 2015

Why kill a man when you can kill an idea?

By Elle Kaye
Winner of the Australian Jewish News 2015 Writing Competition

Award winning series Homeland and Prisoners of War
To coincide with the Australian visit of Emmy-award winning Israeli writer/director Gideon Raff, creator of Prisoners of War, the Israeli television show that led to US blockbuster series Homeland, we asked readers to submit a short story, poem or screenplay that starts with the line "Why kill a man when you can kill an idea?", a quote from Homeland

The graffiti stared at her. Bright, dripping yellow on the grey tunnel wall, illuminated haphazardly by a flashing, fluorescent light. She tried to imagine what would possess someone to risk their life to write such a thing. Tried to ignore that gnawing sensation that told her that she was meant to see it. Today. Now. Urgently.

This wasn’t the train she had meant to catch home. She was early. Classes had been cancelled in advance of the exam period starting the following week. But here she was. Stopped. Blinking in time with a fluorescent light and a spray of graffiti.

She imagined the anonymous author. An utter cliché, baggy jeans, skateboard, backpack full of spray-paint canisters. And as she imagined him there she shouted to him: “Hey! Does it even matter which you kill? It’s not the answer that matters. It’s the question itself. Asking yourself the question matters. Thinking is what matters. Intention matters.” And as her monologue played out in her imagination and as her eyes scanned the text again, the bag on her lap began to feel heavy.

She had never had access to her papers before. But today she had had to reapply for the next year at university. On the previous two occasions she had been escorted. But because she had been such a good girl for the past two years, because she had returned home daily, because she continued to tow the line, she was allowed to have her papers for today only. She had stood passively as she watched the safe being unlocked and her papers retrieved. She had promised faithfully to return them.

Every day she returned to her community was another day she risked being married off. She knew how it would be. Knew that the marriage would happen without her knowledge. Knew that she would be woken one morning and married before the sun had fully risen.

Being different was not a good thing in her community. Unless, of course, you could be useful. And so, improbably, she was given the opportunity only a handful of women had been given before, a degree at university. And because of her obvious aptitude for numbers, stellar lineage, her quiet demeanour and outward piety, she was not seen as a flight risk.

She would have liked more time. But as the train continued to stand still and as the light continued to flicker against the yellow graffiti, she knew she needed to act.

She got off the train. She walked into the first bank she saw. She opened a bank account with her papers and two cheques she had received only that day. She had won two prizes this year. $6750 all up. Not enough to live off. If it were only for the cheques, she never would have had the courage to leave. It was actually having work prospects that did it. The other piece of paper weighing down her canvas bag. A job offer. Full-time over the summer then part-time when university returned. Mentorship. Even rental assistance.

She thought of the question again as she walked out of the bank into the glaring sunlight. She laughed aloud as she thought of the irony of her choices. She hadn’t killed a man or an idea. She had killed herself  … by giving herself a new life. Back home, she would be mourned as if dead. Excommunicated forever. And she knew that there would be a deep and heavy sadness to reckon with. But for now, all she felt, was free.

Gideon Raff is a guest presenter at the 2015 Sydney Jewish Writers Festival
Gideon Raff will be speaking at the opening night of the Sydney Jewish Writers Festival on Saturday 29 August from 8:30pm - 10pm, I love a complex country: Views on Israel with Dvir Abramovich, Jennifer Teege and Debbie Whitmont

He will also be speaking on Sunday 30 August from 3:15pm - 4:15pm, TV espionage: In Conversation with the creator of Homeland, Prisoners of War & Dig, Gideon Raff with Michaela Kalowski

To see the full program and buy tickets: 

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