I watched footage taken on Oct. 7. What I saw was evil.
OpinionHorror that can't be forgotten

I watched footage taken on Oct. 7. What I saw was evil.

It was evil. Calculated evil, the likes of which is rarely, if ever, visited upon civilized society.

A collage of screen captures from videos recorded on Oct. 7, 2023 showing Hamas attacks across southern Israel. (Image courtesy of The Times of Israel)
A collage of screen captures from videos recorded on Oct. 7, 2023 showing Hamas attacks across southern Israel. (Image courtesy of The Times of Israel)

Warning: contains graphic descriptions of violence

I spent the morning of March 28 studying with a friend. It’s something we’ve done for more than a year, slowly making our way through Pirkei Avot.

I can always benefit from the teachings of our ancestors, but that morning, I felt the need to be enmeshed in their words more than other days. Later that evening, I would be joining about two dozen invited local leaders at Rodef Shalom Congregation to view about 50 minutes of unedited recordings from Hamas’ Oct. 7 terrorist attack, titled “Hamas Massacre — Collected Raw Footage,” delivered by the Israeli consulate.

Ironically, my friend and I were studying Chapter 2, Tractate 14 of Pirkei Avot that morning. It begins:

“He said to them: Go out and discern which is the evil path.”

Prescient, yes, but I assure you, the night I viewed the footage there was no need for discernment. Hamas’ brutal, cowardly, barbaric attack on a mostly civilian population as they drove down highways, carried on their daily lives inside their homes and enjoyed a music festival was the evil path.

It was the type of evil for which there is no redemption.

And despite what you might have heard in Allegheny County Council’s chamber, on social media or expressed by local politicians and misguided community members, what I viewed was not an attempt at resistance or protest by Hamas. It wasn’t a release valve for a people oppressed, nor was it the understandable and expected response of a group of people who believe they’ve been subjugated to a colonial overlord for more than seven decades.

It was evil. Calculated evil, the likes of which is rarely, if ever, visited upon civilized society.

However bad you think the footage was, I assure you, it was worse. I am not exaggerating when I say it was worse in values of 10 — at least 100 times worse than the most violent scenes Hollywood has staged or the evening news has broadcast. Worse than the accounts you have heard on NPR of tribal attacks in third-world countries.

I’m not being hyperbolic. The type of evil on display in the clips obtained from Hamas’ own body and video cameras, radio transmissions, CCTV, dashboard cameras, victims’ social media accounts and other sources is impossible to catalog. How do you differentiate one murder from another, the barbarity of one act two minutes into the footage from another 44 minutes later?

To list a parade of the horrors I witnessed would only serve to create nightmares to a Jewish community still traumatized from the worst antisemitic event in United States history that took place in their city and shattered their sense of security.

While I don’t want to participate in the torture porn that has become ingrained in modern society, I do feel it necessary to at least give some examples of the nightmarish scenes presented.

In one video, a father on a kibbutz is rushing his two children from their main room into a separate structure, most likely the family’s safe room. The three are dressed in shorts and nothing else. They may have just woken up or were on their way to swim. As they enter the building, a Hamas terrorist lobs a grenade into the room and kills the father in front of the two children. The two boys are ushered back into their home, where they sit in the kitchen crying for their dead father and discussing the fact that they will most likely be murdered.

The older brother asks about the injuries suffered by his younger sibling, who says he cannot see out of one eye. As they are talking, a terrorist walks in, makes his way to the family’s refrigerator and calmly drinks from a bottle of Coke, paying little attention to the two children before leaving.

When the boys’ mother arrives home, accompanied by security forces, she is shown her husband’s body and nearly collapses as an IDF soldier holds her up.

In another much more graphic scene, an Israeli man’s corpse is lying on the ground while a Hamas terrorist chops and slices his head off, taking it with him as some sort of depraved talisman. It is the type of behavior expected from a serial killer, not someone who thinks of himself as a soldier in a war.

Throughout the video, women are seen suffering through the aftermath of sexual assault while being taken hostage. Burnt babies and children’s corpses are shown. There are 139 murders shown in the nearly 50-minute reel.

The living suffered, as well. Countless individuals are shown being beaten, sometimes in the back of trucks while in Gaza, by “ordinary” citizens who weren’t part of the terrorist minions sent into Israel to murder and rape.

The audio recordings, taken from the videos and cellphone intercepts, are just as disturbing. Some of the terrorists took photos with the hostages after they were beaten; others broadcast their deeds on social media.

A constant refrain of “Allahu Akbar,” or “God is great,” is heard. Other terrorists profess, “These are dogs’ corpses,” and “Bring more, f—k this country.”

A commander is heard telling one of his compatriots, “Bring him and hang him. Bring him and let people play with his body.”

Chillingly, a terrorist makes a call to his parents using a dead Israeli’s phone. He tells them, “I killed 10 with my bare hands, Dad,” and, “Mom, your son is a hero. Kill. Kill. Kill.”

I could go on and on and on. I actually fear keeping the notes I made during the film, afraid that my son might read the images I described. They are most certainly too traumatic for most to see.

And yet, the atrocities occurred.

The men, women and children victims were selected for only one reason: They were Jewish and they were in Israel.

What we viewed was not man’s inhumanity to man, nor was it a battle in a war. It was the work of mass murderers who took pleasure in what they were doing. They bragged about what they did.

They treated humans worse than the way animals are allowed to be treated according to the rules of halal, the dietary restrictions that Muslims follow, which are similar to kashrut.

And they’ve told the world they’ll do it again if they are allowed to survive. What I saw was the reason Israel can not stop prosecuting their war against Hamas until the terrorist organization can never again do what it did on Oct. 7.

What I saw in the video was a repudiation of the idea that Hamas can be a partner in peace.

What I saw was murder.

What I discerned was evil. PJC

David Rullo can be reached at drullo@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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