This piece is part of our Wit­ness­ing series, which shares pieces from Israeli authors and authors in Israel, as well as the expe­ri­ences of Jew­ish writ­ers around the globe in the after­math of Octo­ber 7th.

It is crit­i­cal to under­stand his­to­ry not just through the books that will be writ­ten lat­er, but also through the first-hand tes­ti­monies and real-time account­ing of events as they occur. At Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, we under­stand the val­ue of these writ­ten tes­ti­mo­ni­als and of shar­ing these indi­vid­ual expe­ri­ences. It’s more impor­tant now than ever to give space to these voic­es and narratives.

My teach­ers say,

we need to rec­og­nize evil.

We need to name it,

we need to call it out.

We need to know when 

we are deal­ing with evil.

We need to be able 

to tell others

what evil is.


But I flinch when they say this,

because I have trouble 

with see­ing evil.


I can see evil actions,

evil inten­tions,

evil words.

But when

I try to see evil

in peo­ple,

see 

some­thing 

else.


Because I know

humans are almost always

both evil and good.

And every­where in my life

how I see humans

mat­ters.


If I see you as 

only evil,

what can I do with you?

I can­not

teach you

con­nect with you

meet your needs

under­stand you

make peace with you

ever trust you or

learn from you.


Evil is meant only

to be destroyed.

Evil is there only

to dis­tin­guish the good.


But I don’t believe

G‑d

cre­ates

humans

whol­ly evil.


(But did you, G‑d?

Are you test­ing me

to see if I can tell?)


Evil was done

to my people

on Octo­ber 7.

Rap­ing and murdering; 

Hold­ing hostages –

absolute­ly evil.

And evil has

been done since.


Shall I say 

all those who per­pe­trat­ed this

were evil?

Are their lead­ers evil?

Are their fam­i­lies evil?

Are their chil­dren evil?

Are their aid work­ers evil?

Is every­one call­ing for peace

in that land… evil?


The trou­ble with see­ing evil is 

soon you see it

every­where. In everyone

who sees things differently.

Then under­stand­ing anoth­er view

is irrel­e­vant;

It’s sim­ply more evil.

And life becomes 

black and white and scary. 


I have learned: evil is a test.

This is how it tests me:

Can I retain my 

empa­thy, kindness,

wis­dom, hope,

courage

trust

peace

when con­front­ed with evil?


Can I see evil

and keep my goodness?

Can I be affect­ed by evil

and still care

about all my peo­ple and 

also

peo­ple

who are not mine?

Can I expe­ri­ence evil

and still trust in good?


Study­ing mys­ti­cal teachings

I learned:

evil is an illusion.

Here in the phys­i­cal world, evil exists;

but ulti­mate­ly

there is noth­ing but G‑d.


On Octo­ber 8 as I danced

out­side in a park­ing lot

(it was Sim­chat Torah)

they start­ed to sing

Ein Od Milvado” 

and I cried.

My teach­ers:

There is noth­ing but G‑d.


Is G‑d is also over there

with the wretched

hun­gry

home­less

chil­dren?

If I hard­en my heart

to their suffering

because of evil

done to me 

have I passed or failed

evil’s test?

My teach­ers say,

we have to name evil

when we see it

and I agree

we can’t let evil actions happen

with­out being named.

If we don’t, 

hor­ror becomes normal.


But I ask:

When does see­ing too much evil

blind us from knowing 

what is good?


The views and opin­ions expressed above are those of the author, based on their obser­va­tions and experiences.

Sup­port the work of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and become a mem­ber today.

Evonne Mar­zouk’s work has been pub­lished in Newsweek, the Wash­ing­ton Post, the Jew­ish News Syn­di­cate, The Wis­dom Dai­ly, the Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency, Rit­u­al­Well, The Jew­ish Writ­ing Project (forth­com­ing) and many oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. She co-edit­ed Uplift­ing Peo­ple and Plan­et: Eigh­teen Essen­tial Jew­ish Lessons on the Envi­ron­ment (2014), co-authored a chap­ter on The Hero­ine’s Jour­ney” in the book Jew­ish Fan­ta­sy World­wide (2023), and has four poems in the new­ly pub­lished anthol­o­gy, Call­ing Out: Psalms for Today (2024). Her nov­el, The Prophetess, was a Jew­ish Book Coun­cil offer­ing in 2019 – 2020