“None of this concerns me at all,” said Yehuda Leib Schreiber, 33, a full-time Torah scholar and a father of seven. “It’s all dictated from above.”
The only proper response, he said, was “to repent.”
Beitar Illit’s victims included a father of 11, Rabbi Shimon Matlon, Elazar Goldberg, 37, Shmuel Zvi Klagsbald, 43, and a teenager, Shmuel Eliahu Cohen, 16. The names of the four flashed on an electronic advertising board at the entrance to the settlement.
Inside, the prevailing mood was one of collective mourning and quiet introspection. Residents said the tragedy was a divine message that called for soul-searching and self-improvement. Even when such messages were hard for mortals to understand, they said, who were they to ask questions?
“We believe the 45 were chosen by God to atone for the sins of this entire generation,” said Chavi Zaltsman, 25, a mother of two from the Hasidic Karlin sect. The sins could include idle gossip or disputes or hatred, she said, adding, “We need to love each other more, even if people are different.”
Some took comfort in the national day of mourning that the government had called on Sunday, though the more extreme ultra-Orthodox groups that do not recognize the state had no interest in state decrees.
“God came and took this boy and that man,” said Asher Suissa, 44, a caterer and friend of Rabbi Matlon’s. But he added that people were also involved, without apportioning blame.