Lone Wolf or running with the pack?

Persecution of Messianic Jews in Israel is a disturbing trend and the arrest of Ya’akov Teitel highlights the danger facing our brothers and sisters in Israel.

At the festival of Purim in 2008, a bomb disguised as a Purim gift almost killed 15-year-old Ami Ortiz. In November, a year-and-a-half after the event, the man who planted the device was arrested. Ya’akov (Jack) Teitel, a former US marine and convert to an Orthodox Jewish terror group which believes that the coming of Messiah is delayed because of Israel’s tolerance of Arabs, homosexuals, political left wingers and Messianic Jews. Teitel has confessed to a string of murders and terror attacks, including the attempted murder of Ami Ortiz.

As the teenager unwrapped what he thought was a Purim basket containing sweets, the bomb containing nails, screw and needles exploded with enough force to blow out all the apartment’s windows and was loud enough to be heard a mile away. Ami suffered extensive second and third-degree burns to his body, had shrapnel embedded in one of his lungs and deep wounds from head to foot. It was thought that he would lose his eyesight but eighteen months and eleven operations later, Ami’s wounds have healed, he has 20/20 vision and plays basketball for two teams. Doctors have described Ami’s recovery as miraculous The Ortiz family have stated that they forgive their would-be killer and, according to Ami, he never felt any hatred towards the man who tried to kill him and his family.

Stealer of souls
Ami’s father David, an evangelist in the town of Ariel, was the main target of Teitel’s attack. Teitel wanted to kill Ortiz because he was “stealing the souls of Jews”.

Surveillance camera footage, which can be viewed at YouTube click here to view You Tube , shows a shadowy figure in Orthodox garb, said to be Teitel, planting the explosive device outside the Ortiz apartment. Following the attack which severely damaged the apartment and left Ami with third degree burns and shrapnel deeply embedded in his body, the police did little to bring the attacker to justice. The Rosh Pina Project blog lists ten unanswered questions to the handling of the Ami Ortiz case by Israeli police. Given the nature of the incident, asks the blog, why did the police reportedly claim that Ami’s horrific injuries had been caused by an accident with a firework? Why, asks Rosh Pina, did they claim there was no photographic evidence of a bomber when there clearly was, and why were the police so slow to deal with the evidence?

A number of sources, including the Israeli Secret Service, Shin Bet, insist Teitel acted as a “lone wolf” or that he was a “wild weed”. However, Teitel is a new immigrant to Israel and does not have a good grasp of Hebrew so it would seem he had to be working with others who knew the history, the logic and the psyche of the Israeli people. Teitel’s wife claims she knew nothing about his activities even though one of the rooms of the modestly sized house where they live with their children had been converted into a bomb-making laboratory. Israel has an enviable record of tracking down terrorists but in the case of a terror attack on a Messianic Jewish family their would-be killer was finally caught with the help of the American FBI.

Increasing persecution
In the last few years, persecution of Messianic Jews in Israel has increased. For more than three years believers in the town of Arad have been harassed by Orthodox Jews and their meeting hall has been fire-bombed. The Nachalat Yeshua (Inheritance of Jesus) Messianic Congregation in Beer Sheva brought a court case against Rabbi Yehuda Deri and the anti-missionary organisation Yad L’Achim after over 500 violent Orthodox protesters invaded their morning service in 2005.

Although it must be stressed that persecution of Jewish believers is not state sponsored, the authorities have a habit of dragging their feet when investigating violence. One official informed David Ortiz that Jews who follow Jesus do not have many friends in Israel. Israeli law, said the official, is designed to protect religious minorities but there are not many people upholding that law.

In spite of laws in Israel which prohibit the desecration of sacred texts and public humiliation of religious groups, in May 2008 – just weeks after the Ortiz bombing – hundreds of copies of the New Testament were publically burned by yeshiva students in the town of Or Yehuda near Tel Aviv. Or Yehuda’s deputy mayor, Uzi Aharon, called the actions of the students a mitzvah, or commandment, and admitted that he had helped organise the book burning.

According to Calev Meyers, lawyer for the Ortiz family, "The Messianic community in Israel are the victims of ongoing vicious propaganda against the community – especially in the ultra-religious media… The ongoing vicious propaganda that comes against families like [the Ortiz’s] and against the Messianic Jewish community lays the basis for radical events or attacks like this against the community.”

Orthodox opponents of the Messianic community appear to be pushing the parameters of their actions against Messianic Jews and if violence against members of the Body of Messiah in Israel goes unchecked by the prosecuting authorities, it is only a matter of time before someone is killed.

For further information on the Ortiz/Teitel case, visit the following websites:
The Ami Ortiz Story,
The Rosh Pina Project.

Mike Moore

This article was first published in the Herald in December 2009.

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