An adult man, a settler, a religious man, a charismatic man, an ideologist, who has a weapons storeroom in his home – this is how the police described Yaakov (Jack) Teitel,
months before they knew who he was. But even then, the police already had an established estimation that only one person was behind the acts he had committed – an estimation which later proved to be true.
A further review of the thousands of documents from the investigation file in the Jewish terrorist affair, some of which were revealed
Thursday, only strengthens the feeling that the law enforcement authorities had an endless number of clues and details which could have helped assemble the full picture and arrest Teitel at an earlier stage.
One of the interesting records is a document written in December 2008, 10 months before Teitel's arrest, in which a police investigator reached the conclusion that one element was behind a series of incidents which took place between 2006 and 2008.
These 10 incidents were eventually included in the indictment filed against Teitel: A pipe bomb detonated
outside Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell's home in September 2008; an explosive charge planted at a police station in the West Bank settlement of Eli in April 2006; an explosive device detonated in a monastery in the village of Beit Jamal near Beit Shemesh in April 2007; An explosive charge detonated in Jerusalem's Ramot neighborhood in May 2007; a explosive Purim
to the Ortiz family home in Ariel in March 2008; and five additional cases in which pamphlets against the gay pride parade, hatred letters and "manuals" were distributed in Jerusalem and in the settlements of Eli and Adei Ad.
The document's author, Chief Inspector Maya Engelhard, a research and profile officer at the Investigative Psychology Department of the police's national headquarters, based her conclusion on the common characteristics of texts distributed on pamphlets and booklets and attached to explosive devices, and especially in "the manual for activists of the Judea Kingdom", which included a manifesto of hatred against the State of Israel,
calling for the establishment of a "Judea state" and including a series of instructions for dealing with arrests and interrogations and for the preparation of a variety of Molotov cocktails and explosive devices.
'Burning hatred.' Yaakov Teitel in court (Photo: Guy Turgeman)
Engelhard concluded, and her conclusion later proved to be completely right, that there was "one main doctrine" behind all the incidents, which focuses on hatred of "sodomites". She explained that the word "sodomite" did not refer to homosexuals only, but to "anyone who does not share an ideology which is similar to that of the writers. In other words, a group comprised of "all the haters of the Torah," including the State of Israel, its leaders and the government institutions. He feels a "burning hatred" to all these elements, she ruled.
In one point, however, Chief Inspector Engelhard makes a fundamental mistake: She estimates that the actions were not committed by one person but by a group of people, comprised of "a leading hand" which constitutes a "key authority" under which a number of small cells which carried out the attacks operate, and which "are not necessarily aware of each other's existence."
No foundation for this assertion has been found so far, and the established estimate is that Teitel acted all alone.
She then paints a profile of the head of the organization and of the "young people" who executed his orders by planting the explosives. In her characterization of the "key authority", she managed to create a profile which fairly suits Jack Teitel: A person over the age of 35 (Teitel was 36 at the time); a resident of the territories; strongly religious; charismatic and very articulate; a person who blindly believes in his way; ideologically detached from the State of Israel, and therefore is likely not to pay taxes, to live in an isolated place and ignore the existence of the security forces; he is expected to carry a weapon and may have "a hiding place or storeroom for weapons."
Engelhard also estimated that in the case of an arrest and interrogation, this man "will refuse to cooperate, but there is a chance that in a certain situation he will be able to 'restrain himself' and will provide the investigators with his doctrine" – which is exactly what happened.
Nonetheless, she also "misses" some points. For example, she claims that "we cannot rule out the possibility that he served in the IDF in the past and may have even been a career officer." She estimates that "he may have a relatively neat look, essentially military, and there is a possibility that he may wear a sign which will identify him and those accompanying him. She also estimates that "he is expected to draw young people (mainly bachelors) who share his outlook."
The documents also reveal that during the investigation, even before Teitel was caught, the police looked into a variety of suspicions which were eventually not included in the indictment.
For example, one of the documents revealed that the police had examined a threat letter sent by email to Former Meretz
Chairman Yossi Beilin. The letter, which was sent on October 2008, read, "I regret to inform you of the death of Uri Avnery and Yariv Oppenheimer… who were two of several enemies of Israeli living among us, and that they will be joined in the future by Sternheil (apparently referring to Prof. Sternhell), Beilin and others."
The letter's writer also praised the actions of former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's
murderer, Yigal Amir.
The police apparently linked the threat letter to Teitel because Prof. Sternhell, one of his victims, was mentioned in it. Oppenheimer, the Peace Now secretary-general, was also mentioned in Teitel's interrogations as one of the people he considered targeting. However the names of Beilin, Oppenheimer and Avnery where eventually not included in the indictment, which did not mention any threats.
Another complaint looked into as part of the "Teitel case" relates to an incident from February 2009, in which an article about the attack on Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell (which took place five months earlier) was pasted near the home of a Women in Black activist in Jerusalem's Ein Kerem neighborhood. On the article someone had written that anyone who hurts the activist will receive NIS 1 million (about $260,000).
It should be noted that the same activist had complained in the past about being harassed by "a guy of American descent", and the court had even issued a restraining order against him.
Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell (Photo: Dudi Vaaknin)
Another lead looked into in the investigation, which was apparently not verified, is a link between the affair and members of the Satmar Hasidism in the United States. In a letter from January 2009, one of the investigators asked for a meeting with the representative of the New York Police Department in Israel, in order to receive information on intelligence in some of the Hasidism's yeshivot in the East Coast.
The request for a meeting was made due to suspicions that there was a link between five pipe bomb attacks (against Prof. Sternhell and in relation to the gay pride parade) and "an unknown Jewish underground." All of these attacks are now attributed to Teitel.
Another document points to additional clues the police had, which could have helped locate Teitel: A summary of the questioning of Prof. Sternhell's wife, Ziva, who said that several hours before the pipe bomb exploded outside their home, she had spotted a man standing next a nearby bottle recycling device, holding a note and apparently searching for an address.
She described him as a 35-year-old man, tall, with a medium-sized body and short dark hair, and added that he may have been wearing a skullcap and had a beard. However, she said she could not tell if he was secular or religious.
The documents in the file include detailed accounts of Teitel's reenactments of the incidents in which explosive devices were planted in the different attacks, which accompany a video documentation.
The file also includes a variety of drawings which were apparently illustrated by Teitel himself and seized by the police. They describe the different charges he built, alongside comments and explanations about their structure and operating systems and the places they were planted in. The writing is a mixture of English and Hebrew filled with spelling mistakes. Here are just a few of the drawings:
Explosive charge with 'gunpowder' (spelled incorrectly in Hebrew)
Booby-trapped Purim gift sent to Ortiz family, as drawn by Teitel
Charge activated using 200-meter fishing string after being planted under jeep Teitel thought was a police car in Ramot neighborhood. There were no injuries
Explosives planted by Teitel in Eli, Beit Jamal
Another document includes a psychiatric evaluation of Teitel from November 2, about a month after his arrest. The psychiatrist, Dr. Leon Karp, concluded that Teitel was "aware and sober" and that his concentration and public judgment abilities were intact. He also ruled out any comprehension and intelligence disorders.
According to Dr. Karp, "Apart from phenomena of schizoid behavior (seclusion and sinking into an internal world), I did not find any psychiatric problems… I believe there is no need for hospitalization."
The documents exposed include a documentation of all of Teitel's interrogations since he was arrested on October 7. A pattern repeats itself in regards to each of the suspicions the investigators attribute to him: At first he keeps quiet, then he denies, and then he talks.
Another stage was added when he was questioned about the massacre at the Tel Aviv gay youth club – after claiming responsibility, he goes back on his statement and denies again.
In his first interrogation, Teitel said that "each person pays for his actions." He even responded positively when asked if he was aware of the fact that he was "going to sit in jail for many years."
At this stage of the investigation, however, he was only questioned about the pamphlets seized while being distributed in the Har Nof neighborhood. He did not know that at this stage the investigators had already suspected that he was involved in the murder cases and attempts to hurt Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell and the Ortiz family members.
In the second interrogation he was asked for the first time about the pipe bomb planted at the Sternhell home and replied that he had heard about the attacks against "the leftists from the university" in Jerusalem but denied any connection to it. He also denied having anything to do with the explosive Purim basket in Ariel. He only admitted that he had distributed leaflets against homosexual, "because they engage in acts which contradict the Torah." He explained that he had wanted to evoke the ultra-Orthodox public opinion and cause haredim to go out and protest.
The third interrogation was held the same day, and he was presented with photos showing him placing the explosive charge in Ariel. He claimed in response that the pictures were blurred. In the next interrogations he was asked about the weapons in his possession and, for the first time, about his involvement in the gay club shooting attack in Tel Aviv. His response was negative.
Murder in Tel Aviv gay youth club, August 2009 (Photo: Yaron Brener)
After resting on Shabbat, he was questioned again, and told the investigators where he had hid a weapon – after being told that if he revealed the weapon's location he would be able to meet his wife. In her meeting with her, he said he was sorry for causing her misery.
In the same interrogation, he said he would refuse to be questioned about the 1997 murder, on which he had been questioned in the past. He claimed that the attack took place a long time ago, and therefore "it’s not important."
Only four days after being arrested, Teitel began speaking. He said he had planned to target the homosexual and lesbian center in Jerusalem (Open House). According to Teitel, he had planned to send an explosive flowerpot to the offices, but reconsidered for fear that the messenger would be hurt or that the investigation would lead to him.
He also said that he had planned to target the manager of a club used by members of Jerusalem's gay community. He was asked again about the murder cases from 12 years ago and again replied, "What could I gain from it?"
After undergoing a polygraph test, which revealed that he was not speaking the truth about the gay youth club massacre, Teitel confessed to the two murder cases from the previous decade, to an attempt to poison residents of a Palestinian village and to setting three fires near the village of Beit Jamal.
He later admitted that he had been involved in planting explosive charges and even said he had shot a sick dog in the head. Regarding the poisoning attack, he said he had read in a book from the James Bond series that a substance called "antifreeze" was toxic and decided to carry out a poisoning attack.
Many of the interrogations engaged in Teitel's alleged involvement in the gay club shooting. Following repeated denials, things took a turn when he agreed to say what he would have done if he was the person behind the attack: He would take a grenade and a gun and hide an explosive device on a tree.
In another interrogation, he said he would have arrived at the place on a motorcycle and explained what clothes he would have worn. A week after his arrest, he told his investigators that an attack "in a gay bar" in Tel Aviv would not suit him as much because it was carried out against children.
On October 16 there was another change: Teitel said he was willing to take responsibility for the incident, but added that he did not commit it. He suggested that the police record his voice and let the attack's survivors listen to it, because he had heard that the murderer had shouted something.
On October 19 he confessed to the murder, saying that he had fired many shots and that he remembers seeing teenagers "running, shouting, dropping chairs and escaping" as he fired in all directions, some hiding under a light brown-colored table and begging him to stop. He also said he remembered the terrified teens' eyes as he shot at them. He failed, however, to provide technical details. He only said that he had been wearing black clothes and a black mask and that he had used a 9-millimeter gun.
He also added that he deserved to die for this act, that he did deserve to wear a skullcap, that he did not deserve to drink the coke he was given and that he was "a monster rather than a human being."
But in the next interrogation he went back on his words, saying that he had lied and did not carry out the attack. He apologized for the lie and explained that he had given the false version because he thought that would bring the affair to an end.
And indeed, apart from the gay club incident, Teitel expressed his complete confidence in the rightness of his actions. In one of his interrogations he said he was in peace with his deeds and that any self-examination would eventually take place between him and God, who will judge him one day.
Teitel estimated that he would be rewarded for his actions rather than punished, although he understood that he may spend many years in prison. He also said that had he not been arrested, he would have continued his activity.
Another attack Teitel confessed to and then went back on was the plating of three mines in the village of Abu Gosh. At first he confessed to the attack, which the investigators were not even aware of. Police officers were dispatched to the area to search for the explosives, which were not detonated, but could not find them.
Teitel went back on his confession, but then claimed responsibility for the missing charges once again. "You have nothing to worry about," he said, adding that the explosives were planted when he had just begun his activity and were not of high quality. The charges were never found, but the offense of planting them was included in the indictment.
In some of the interrogations, his behavior as a family man was discussed, and Teitel claimed that he was a good husband and a reasonable father. He estimated, however, that his wife would be angry at his actions and decide to divorce him.
A comical moment was recorded in one of the questioning sessions, when Teitel turned to his investigators and suggested that if the police would drop all charges against him, he would be willing to study Arabic or Persian and serve as an Israeli agent in Iran.
Amir Shilo, Yaron Druckman, Ahiya Raved, Aviad Glickman, Vered Luvitch and Ronen Medzini contributed to this report