‘V’ Is for Victory
The odyssey of Jack Tytell: An intimate look at the accused Jewish killer
V. A Good Father
Dassi Krief tells me that she tried to quit smoking for her husband, but, whenever tragedy falls on her family—and it falls often—she reaches for her one and only crutch: the blue steel-grey smoke. “In hindsight, he had some obsessions,” Krief says. “He might have been a weird person, maybe he is, but he is a nice person.” She remains calm while talking about the possibility that her sister is married to a killer. “As normal beings, not mental doctors, we are not supposed to see these things,” she says, referring to her and her family’s inability to see Jack Tytell for who he is. She is a dam protecting a flood plain, which is Rivka, Tytell’s wife.
“If we met a man who we didn’t like and was not a good daddy, it wouldn’t be anything but the rest of a bad story,” Krief says as she stands upright and elegantly rests her left elbow on her left hip. She pulls the cigarette from her lips, the smoke trails while words follow, “But it all feels like a bad dream. I cannot believe it in my heart.”
Handout photo provided by the Israeli Police on November 2, 2009.
CREDIT: GSS via Getty Images
We are meeting at the Jerusalem central bus station, after passing through metal detectors, a luggage scanner, and riding up the escalator. We were supposed to meet at her home in Ma’ale Shomron in the West Bank, but Krief got cold feet and almost canceled the interview, before finally agreeing to one hour at a café on the second floor of the bus station. Everyone around us just went through a metal detector before a security guard dove elbow deep in our bags. Teens walk with cellphones pressed against their ears, mothers walk with children pressed against their bosoms, Orthodox men stop what they are doing to pray, fatigued IDF soldiers laxly sling M-16s on their shoulders as they wait for a bus back home.
Krief thinks that the accusations are made up. Tytell never had a steady job, he was hard to talk to and often seemed distracted, but he was brilliant with the computer, could fix any problem, and was taking an online desktop publishing course. He never finished the course, nor did he get a job. But he was gentle, generous, and Jewish, so nothing else really mattered.
At 29, she says she’s too old and rational to trust in hope. She says the accusations against her brother-in-law cannot have been conjured out of thin air, but she is still in a state of disbelief. “I think everyone is falling on him, accusing him of all the unsolved crimes in Israel,” she says. She takes a sip from her water bottle and removes her pink lace headband to let her wavy hair cascade. She folds the lace in her hands. “But, then again, it all can’t be for nothing, that’s my rational thinking,” she says. “But in my heart I will never believe it.”
A year ago Krief was in desperate need of money. When her sister phoned and asked her how she was doing, Krief mentioned that she needed 2,000 shekels (about $535) to make ends meet. The next night there was a knock at the door, and her brother-in-law was standing there holding a white envelope. He handed her the envelope and said, “Don’t say anything.” Inside was 2,500 shekels. “He drove almost two hours to give me money he didn’t have,” she says with a hopeful stare. “That’s the generous man we knew.” The Jack Tytell who was portrayed as a heartless killer in Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post was an evil man with a face she did not recognize. The man she knew was a nice person, a strong man, and a gentle father who looked out for everyone’s safety. He rushed to help Moshe Avitan, a brother-in-law and neighbor in Shvut Rachel who was shot by an Arab on Route 60 near their settlement. He taught Krief’s husband martial arts so he could protect himself. When he got up to go to the bathroom, he would apologize.
“From what I knew, Rivka and Yaakov were happy and in love on top of a mountain,” she says before we part. The last time she saw Tytell was two days before he was arrested last October. Avitan had just got home from the hospital, where he was expected to die from the shooting on Route 60. They were singing a song from the Haggadah, which Krief wrote out for me in Hebrew: “And God stood up for our fathers and for us. Not only one rose against us to destroy us. In every generation many rose against us to destroy us. And the Holy One, Blessed is He, saved us from their hand.” Everyone was crying except for Tytell.