‘V’ Is for Victory
The odyssey of Jack Tytell: An intimate look at the accused Jewish killer
VII. ‘V’ is for Victory
The dingy plywood walls of cubicle number 20 in the Internet café on Jaffa Road in Jerusalem are the color of dirty pig’s skin. The owner of the Internet café told me Cubicle 20 is where Tytell sat almost every week. It was here that, according to reports, he allegedly typed emails to the Ortiz family, telling them his name was Daniel Ivgeny and he was interested in their Messianic services. Tytell would sit, resting his fingers on these black keys, worn down and caked with brown dirt, and stare into the white light of the screen and feel the distracted drone of a fast Internet connection and the buzz of caffeinated oxygen in a stuffy room. I am sitting in the technology pod, breathing in the sand-filled air, and I stare, hoping for a metaphysical connection that will help me understand this man and the nature of the evil that he brought with him. But nothing happens.
Instead I think back to a conversation I recently had with a man named Reuven. We were standing together at the edge of a settlement called Elazar in the Gush Etzion region of the Judean Hills. He pointed to the neighboring settlement, Betar Illit, where Mark and Dianne Tytell, Jack’s parents, reportedly live, and we watched the lights turn on as the sky grew darker.
“God told us to take the hills, and as you see that’s what we are doing,” Reuven said, pointing to the golden light perched upon the rolling mountains. “He who controls the mountains, controls the valleys.” He is clearly not crazy. Yet it is also clear that he regards his presence here as a kind of warfare.
Two days before, I had asked Michael Tobin, a Jerusalem-based psychologist, if he thinks everyone he meets here is convinced God spoke to them 30 minutes ago. He had laughed and said that in his entire career he had treated only one man who spoke like Tytell —who spoke about God commanding him to eliminate sodomites— and that person ended up going to the United States, where he was eventually convicted of murder.
I asked Tobin whether in a world of failing truths, did Judea and Samaria become a magnet for Jack Tytell’s dark matter? Did geography, and the absolutist values of the community that he saw himself as protecting, activate something inside the man that might have remained dormant in a less-pressurized place? Tobin, who is also a settler, was bothered by my question. Very educated individuals who are devoted to the land are attracted to the settlements, he said. He picked up his teacup and carried it to the sink as he thought out loud.
“Is this a place that attracts dark matter?” the psychologist said. “I don’t think so, but you never know. If anyone came to me saying they wanted to do these terrible things he’s accused of, I’d go right to the police.” He paused. “Yaakov is not an example of Jerusalem Syndrome. This is not a cute harmless man who thinks he is Jesus and his donkey is tied up at Jaffa Gate. He is a disturbed and dangerous man who will go to his grave at peace with himself for what he has done in the name of God.”
Will Yakowicz is a writer based in New York.