Eye on the Middle East Jan/Feb 2010

When Ya’akov Teitel was arrested for multiple criminal acts in Israel last fall, the Ortiz family in the town of Ariel in Samaria breathed a sigh of relief. For nearly a year and a half, the Ortizes have lived with a nightmare, one that began on an otherwise uneventful day in March 2008.

Ami, the then-15-year-old son of Pastor David and Leah Ortiz, Jewish-Christian believers, arrived home to find a Purim package on the porch. Wondering who would have left it there and curious to see what was inside, Ami placed the package on the kitchen table and began to open it. Suddenly, the box exploded and left him critically wounded and fighting for his life.

Yet Ami survived, enduring at least 14 surgical procedures and beating the prognosis that he would lose his hearing, his sight in one eye, and probably have trouble walking.

“The attack changed my entire life,” Ami told The Jerusalem Post. The trauma has made him suspicious, always checking for someone nearby who could harm him. Ami’s father said the attack changed his son from “A to Z” and made him grow up overnight. He “no longer believes that tomorrow is guaranteed,” his father said.

As the months dragged on with little evidence that authorities were making progress in apprehending the bomber, Ami and his family wondered if the crime would ever be solved.

Then, on October 7, came the arrest of the terrorist who, as it turns out, is a Jewish immigrant from the United States with a long history of crimes dating back over a decade. In 1997 Teitel allegedly murdered two Palestinians near Hebron and planted a pipe bomb in the home of a Hebrew University professor, a member of the Peace Now movement. One of the Palestinian victims, Issa Musa’af, killed as he was tending his sheep, was described by his son as “an innocent farmer and shepherd who never had a beef with anyone. Everybody loved him.”

Teitel, 37, lives with his wife and four children in the Orthodox settlement of Shevut Rahel, close to the Ortiz family in Ariel. So close, in fact, that he may have crossed paths with Leah and David in a shopping center. Orthodox leaders in Shevut Rahel and the synagogue Teitel attended in the United States were dismayed when they received news of the arrest. Shevut Rahel leaders denounced the crimes and said they were praying the charges would prove unfounded, an unlikely prospect since Teitel reportedly confessed and was planning other attacks when apprehended.

When Ami Ortiz learned his attacker was himself a Jew, he was distressed, telling the Post, “It really hurt, because it’s like your own brother has done something like this to you.” Ami said he is in and out of hospitals all the time now.

Unfortunately, terrorists come in all shapes, shades, and sizes. There is a radical fringe made up of people like Ya’akov Teitel who are susceptible to hatemongering and incitement and use them to justify their heinous crimes. Whether this man is found to be mentally competent is yet to be determined, but one thing is certain: He will pay for his crimes to the full extent of the law. There will be no celebrations for what he has done, no streets or summer camps named in his honor. Nor will Ya’akov Teitel be hailed as a hero by Israelis or others who stand with justice anywhere in the world.

Such are the differences between true democracies and the forces of evil that dignify and celebrate terrorism and the slaughtering of innocent people.

Ami Ortiz and his parents can at least rest with this assurance.

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