Jewish Terrorist's Arrest Raises Questions About Investigation

By Marcy Oster (JTA)

Published November 02, 2009.
  • Print
  • Share Share

After the news broke in Israel that a West Bank settler was charged with murdering two Palestinians in 1997 and bombing the home of a prominent Israeli professor last year, many Israelis were asking why it took police so long.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities lifted a gag order on the arrest of Yaakov (Jack) Teitel, a 37-year-old American immigrant living in the settlement of Shvut Rachel, on a variety of charges dating back to the murders of a Palestinian cab driver and shepherd.

Teitel is also charged with planting several explosive devices in 2006 and 2007 directed at Arabs, Christians and police; sending a bomb hidden in a Purim gift basket to a messianic Jewish family that left a 15-year-old boy seriously injured; and planting a pipe bomb in 2008 near the Jerusalem home of Zeev Sternhell, a prominent left-wing academic.

Some Israeli commentators suggested that had Teitel limited his attacks to Palestinians, Israeli authorities would have left the investigations into the attacks on Palestinians grow cold.

“Teitel’s fatal error was turning on other Jews,” Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy wrote Monday. “Had he been satisfied with acts of murder against the Palestinian population, he would never have been caught.”

Teitel had been arrested in 2000 upon entering Israel after intelligence reports suggested that he had committed the 1997 murders, but he was released due to lack of evidence. Despite suspicions about his role in the murders, Teitel was granted a license to carry a handgun.

On Oct. 7, a joint police-Shin Bet operation arrested Teitel while he was in the Orthodox Jerusalem neighborhood of Har Nof hanging up posters supporting last summer’s attack on a gay and lesbian club in Tel Aviv. Police said Teitel confessed to the 1997 murders and several other attacks. He also reportedly confessed to attacking the gay and lesbian club, but the Shin Bet said he was not the gunman.

Police officials said Teitel had been under surveillance for a time but had been very careful to conceal his activities and refrain from perpetrating attacks while under surveillance. After the more recent attacks, authorities were able to ascertain a pattern linking Teitel to the crimes dating back to 1997.

Originally from Florida, Teitel made aliyah in 2000, though he moved back and forth between Israel and the United States for the past 20 years, according to reports. He has four young children.

Police said that Teitel, a loner who never learned Hebrew, became a weapons expert, and a search of his Shvut Rachel home turned up a cache of weapons and explosives.

His attorney, Adi Keidar, said at a news conference Sunday that Teitel is “mentally unstable” and believes Divine visions guided his acts.

Figures from the left and right in Israel questioned why it took authorities so long to catch up with Teitel. Some used the news of the arrest as an opportunity to condemn Jewish settlements in the West Bank as a haven for extremists. Supporters of the settlements called such characterizations unfair.

“Acts of the kind allegedly committed by Yaakov Teitel are grave, prohibited and unacceptable,” Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council of settlements, said Sunday. “Any person of conscience in Israel must rise up in indignation against such acts, as well as against any despicable attempt to use them to gain political capital by blaming an entire community that is not connected – and is in fact vehemently opposed – to such actions.”

The arrest came just days following Israel’s commemorations of the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a right-wing extremist. The Hebrew anniversary of the assassination was last week.






Find us on Facebook!
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.