Pure evil

Pure evil

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned…

How often can we quote Yeats? This summer we saw it coming, that inexorable red tide of evil that is lapping ever closer to Israel, and to us.

We quoted him then.

Today, in the wake of the murders – no, the butchery – at the shul in Jerusalem – pure carnage, pure hatred, and pure evil – we are left almost speechless. It seems to be an act of loathing reduced to its absolute essence. It is not the Nazi way of killing – distant, impersonal, bureaucratic, technological. It was evil, and it was sick. We have seen pictures of the aftermath – not, thankfully, of the violated bodies – and we will not use them on this page. But it is accurate to say that the blood-dimmed tide is loosed.

As we go to press, five men have died. Four were Jews at prayer – Mosheh Twersky, Kalman Levine, Aryeh Kupinsky, and Avraham Goldberg. All were passionate students and scholars, and one, Rabbi Twersky, was the descendent of both the chasidic Twersky dynasty and the Soloveitchiks, among the most influential shapers of modern Orthodoxy. The fifth, Zidan Saif, was a young Druze policeman whose courage, unimaginable to most of us, saved other lives.

Of course, it is not accurate to say that this is the purest emanation of evil imaginable. It was just a month ago that three-month-old Chaye Zisel Braun, a much longed-for baby, was killed at a Jerusalem light rail station. A terrorist drove a car at her.

We do not want to have to grade evil.

The men davening at the shul, saying the Amidah just before they were slaughtered, brings to mind a cover story that we ran two weeks ago. “Bus, bomb, book” was an interview with Bergen Record reporter Mike Kelly, whose new book, “The Bus on Jaffa Road,” is about the bombings that killed Sarah Duker of Teaneck and her fiancé, Matthew Eisenfeld, as well as an earlier bus bombing that killed Alisa Flatow of West Orange.

Mr. Kelly wrote about the last night of Sarah’s life, and compared it with her murderer’s. Sarah, an extraordinary young woman – and to be absolutely clear, her death was no more tragic because she was extraordinary than it would have been had she been average – was with a group of friends, talking about the future and about her spiritual life, full of love and hope and light. She glowed. Meanwhile, the young suicide bomber, who knew that he would blow himself up the next day, prepared for his short future.

One was light and love. The other was darkness and death.

As the Jews who did not yet know that they were to die that day in Har Nof began the central prayer of the liturgy, their assassins, who knew that their lives also would end, attacked.

As we send this issue off to the printer, we know that the situation may grow even worse. This act of evil may be followed immediately by others. We hope and pray for some respite.

We hope that although Yeats was descriptive, he was not prescriptive as well. We hope that he was not prescient as he wrote:

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?