November 9 – 2009

Caspari Center Media Review – November 9, 2009

During the week covered by this review, we received 14 articles on the subject of Messianic Jews, anti-missionary activity, and Christians in Israel. Of these:
11 dealt with Messianic Jews
1 dealt with anti-missionary activity
1 dealt with Christians in Israel
1 was a book review
This week’s Review focused on the arrest of Ya’akov Teitel, accused of sending the Purim bomb to the Ortiz family in Ariel.
Messianic Jews
Jerusalem Post, October 29, November 2; Yediot Ahronot, November 2; Haaretz, November 2 (Hebrew and English editions); Ma’ariv, November 2 (x 2); Makor Rishon, November 2; Israel HaYom, November 2; Index HaEmek vehaGalil, October 23; HaMevaser, November 2, 2009

The top story in all the national papers on November 2, 2009 was the arrest of Ya’akov (Jack) Teitel, a resident of Shvut Rachel, for the suspected murder of two Arabs and the planting of the explosive devices which injured Amiel Ortiz and Zev Sternhell and others. Teitel, who was born in Florida, has allegedly confessed to the crimes, claiming that the attack against the Ortizes was motivated by his belief that the family were “‘missionaries who intended to entrap weak Jews’” (Haaretz, November 2). According to the Jerusalem Post (November 2), “Jerusalem Police Chief Cmdr. Aharon Franco said Teitel had confessed to a spate of attacks and reenacted them. Police also displayed photos of a large weapons cache seized at the suspect’s home. ‘He is like a serial killer. This guy was a Jewish terrorist who targeted different types of people,’ police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. ‘He was deeply involved in terrorism on all different levels.’ Results of the police investigation will be turned over to the state prosecutor to prepare an indictment … Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen said the investigation uncovered a ‘dark, dangerous world in which human lives were taken, and others injured, against what appears to be an extremist ideological background’ … He confessed to planting a bomb on March 20, 2008, at the entrance to the Ortiz family home in Ariel, messianic Jews whom he believed were trying to convert Jews to Christianity.”

Members of the Ortiz family were quoted in an article published in Ma’ariv (November 2): “[Prof. Zev] Sternhell is the most well-known victim among Teitel’s targets. But the person most seriously wounded in the five attacks attributed to the Jewish terrorist is Amiel Ortiz, whose family belongs to the Messianic Jewish stream. In 2008, an explosive device which Teitel prepared detonated, seriously injuring Ortiz, then only 15 years old. Since then, he has undergone 12 plastic surgeries in different parts of his body, suffered the amputations of some of his toes, and lost his hearing in one ear. One of his hands has also lost its functioning. Cameras installed in the building in which the family lives were able to film a man wearing a uniform leaving the device outside the Ortizes’ door … Yesterday, the mother, Leah, gave a great sigh of relief. ‘The information that the person who tried to murder our family has been arrested for interrogation gave me the first moment of release I’ve felt since living in fear for a year and a half,’ she said. ‘At the same time, we’re in total shock at discovering the terrorist’s identity – an Israeli citizen like us, a Jewish settler like us, and living only ten minutes journey away.’ ‘For me, it means less fear at night, both for myself and for my family and friends,’ added Amiel, now 16. ‘I don’t know who he is, but from my point of view he’s a murderer with a primitive and narrow mindset. From the minute we understood that he is Jewish it was very painful. It feels like a betrayal. It’s like your brother attacking you,’ he said. ‘I hope that I’ll be able to sleep better at night now, despite the fact that I know that he’s not alone and that we have to continue to keep our eyes open.’” Likewise, Yediot Ahronot (November 2) reported that, “The person who is still paying the price with his body is Amiel Ortiz from Ariel. Eighteen months ago, Amiel, then 15, was very seriously injured by the detonation of an explosive device disguised as a Purim present. Yesterday, he discovered who sent the gift. ‘I found out that he is also an Israeli citizen like us, as well as a Jew and a settler like us, as well as a neighbor of ours, who lives a ten-minute journey from Ariel,’ said his parents, David and Leah Ortiz, leaders of the Messianic Jewish congregation.”

In fact, the police reports, widely disseminated in the press, all emphasize the fact that Teitel’s arrest took so long in coming – twelve years after his first murder, in 1997 – was largely due to the fact that he was a “lone wolf”; not even his wife was aware of his activities. It was similarly difficult to build a profile of the perpetrator given the varied nature of his victims – Arabs, missionaries, homosexuals, and left-wing activists. Teitel is also reported to have told his lawyer that he received divine messages directing him to carry out the acts. Two of the breakthroughs in the case occurred when details regarding his identity were gleaned from the Ortizes’ camera footage and DNA traces from the Sternhell bombing.
The Jerusalem Post (October 29) carried an article documenting the American State Department’s findings relating to “discrimination against non-Orthodox Jewry”: “Basing themselves on the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, an NGO that defends the legal rights of Jews who practice Christianity, State Department officials noted that Interior Ministry officials denied services to citizens based on their religious beliefs. ‘The JIJ’s legal defense caseload included numerous cases dealing with attempts by the Interior Ministry to revoke the citizenship of persons discovered holding messianic or Christian beliefs, or to deny some of the national services such as welfare benefits or passports to such persons. In other cases the ministry attempted to block immigration of messianic Jews by refusing to process their immigration applications.” According to the piece, “The report also scrutinized the impact on religious freedom of the ongoing conflict in Judea and Samaria between Israelis and Palestinians. ‘The Israeli government generally respected the right to freedom of religion in the Occupied Territories during the reporting period.’ ‘However,’ the report noted, ‘Israel’s strict closure policies and the separation barrier constructed by the government of Israel had the effect of severely restricting the ability of Palestinian Muslims and Christians to reach places of worship and to practice their religious rites’ … State department officials noted Muslim violence against Christians in Bethlehem and Ramallah and land confiscation. ‘The PA did not take sufficient action during the reporting period to investigate and bring to justice persons who harassed, intimidated and perpetrated attacks against some Christian residents of Bethlehem and Ramallah. The PA judiciary also failed to adjudicate numerous cases of seizures of Christian-owned land in the Bethlehem area by criminal groups.’ The report also noted Hamas’s infringement of the religious rights of Christians in Gaza. ‘Due to the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, the PA was unable to pursue cases of religious discrimination there. Some Gazan Christians stated that they believed their Muslim neighbors were discriminating against them for their faith; they also raised concerns that no authority was willing or able to reign in extremist groups. Hamas did not adequately address the cases of discrimination against or intimidation of Christians that occurred during the previous reporting period.’”

According to a brief note in Index HaEmek vehaGalil (October 23), entitled “Confusion in Afula: concert sponsored by Messianic Jews,” residents of the town were surprised to learn that the concert to which they had been invited was in fact being “sponsored” by “Messianic Jews, lovers of Yeshu. The missionaries spoke there and there was a great outcry and huge opposition.”
Anti-missionary Activity
HaModia, November 2, 2009

HaModia (November 2) reported that Yad L’Achim had “got its hands on” an internal missionary document giving facts and figures regarding its recent publicity campaign: “‘During the course of the campaign,’ write the missionaries, ‘we received 1,220 telephone calls, most of them as a result of the public posters. We distributed 9,700 flyers … and conducted 7,927 telephone conversations, leading to contacts with 3,397 people. We received contact information from 712 Israeli Jews …’” The article noted that Yad L’Achim had brought the advertisement on buses to the companies’ owners attention and been assured that they would be removed immediately, on the grounds that the companies’ contracts clearly prohibit such dissemination of “missionary propaganda.” It also asserted that, “If all this were not enough, the missionaries report to their workers with undisguised pride the success of one of their endeavors (apparently during a public event) in reaching the President of the State, Shimon Peres, and handing him missionary propaganda. They use this fact when distributing their literature in public places, offering flyers to passersby with the question, ‘Would you like to have a pamphlet which the President received?’”
Christians in Israel
Haaretz, October 30, 2009

Under the headline, “City hall threatens to slam shut the Door of Hope for homeless sex workers,” Haaretz (October 30) reported that the organization run by Dave Fiquette – which has been the subject of several feature articles in the Israeli press – is under threat of closure due to its inability to pay its municipal tax debts. “Tamar Dressler, an Israeli volunteer who has been handling negotiations with the city [Tel Aviv] for a further discount or an installment plan for covering the debt, said the center receives 30 women every day, helping a total of 250 to 300 sex workers [prostitutes] … ‘Beyond giving them a place to rest, our goal is to nourish their souls and remind them they are human,’ said [a] volunteer.”
Book Review
Israel HaYom, October 29, 2009

Dr. Ariel Oxhorn reviewed Jose Saramago’s The Gospel According to Jesus Christ for Israel HaYom (October 29).