Yaakov (Jack) Teitel, who has been dubbed "the Jewish terrorist," stood before the Jerusalem District Court on Wednesday. Upon entering the courtroom, Teitel refused to address the charges against him and only said that "God is the king." As the indictment was read, he refused the judge's request to rise.
The family members of some of his victims plan to face him and personally hand him a civil statement of claim for NIS 4 million (about $ 1 million), but the Israel Prison Service did not allow them to approach him.
The relatives of a Palestinian taxi driver allegedly murdered by Teitel said before the discussion that the "Jewish terrorist" deserves a life sentence.
Teitel's temporary lawyer, Attorney Shaul Ezra of the Public Defender's Office, told the judges that he read the indictment to his client but that he would deliver his response to the accusations later on. Teitel then refused to rise and told Judge Zvi Segal, "I can hear you from here," but Segal insisted, "Get up, you are in a courtroom."
Teitel was charged about a month ago with two cases of pre-meditated murder, three cases of attempted murder, carrying a weapon, manufacturing a weapon, and incitement to violence. Overall, the indictment includes 14 charges against Teitel.
Teitel, 37, a resident of the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, was indicted for the murder of Palestinian taxi driver, Samir Balbisi, in June 1997, and the murder of a Palestinian shepherd just a few months later. He was also charged with laying an explosive device next to a Palestinian home near the West Bank settlement of Eli.
The indictment also claimed that he attempted to poison Palestinian residents of an isolated village near Eli. He was also indicted for attempting to murder Ami Ortiz, the son of a Messianic family living in Ariel, when he sent an explosive device disguised as a Purim gift to their home. In addition, he is charged with rigging a bomb next to Prof. Zeev Sternhell's home.
Teitel in court (Photo: Guy Turgeman)
Attorney Yossi Graiver, representing the Balbisi and Ortiz families, arrived in court together with the victims' relatives. "We came here today to do two things: First: Look into Teitel's eyes and see exactly who is this man who ruined the Ortiz and Balbisi families, and personally deliver to him the civil statement of claim we filed against him, and we hope the court will sentence him to the maximum punishment for his actions and order him to compensate the families for the damages."
Samir Balbisi, a taxi driver and engineering student, provided for his family before being shot to death by Teitel in 1997. Akram, his father, said Teitel should be treated as he treated Balbisi. "He should receive a life sentence. Nothing will bring back my son," he said.
'He targeted the entire people of Israel'
Ami Ortiz, the son of a Messianic family who was seriously wounded by an explosive device Teitel sent to his home, was a promising basketball player before the incident. Since the attempted murder, he has been busy rehabilitating his life.
"I am very distraught," Ami's mother Leah said ahead of the trial. "I don’t know how I will feel when I see him. This is the first time we will be meeting him. He planned to murder the entire family and seriously injured my son, ruining his future."
Her husband, David, said Teitel should be judged severely so that he would not be able to continue hurting his targets. "I want Teitel to know that we are still standing here today and that he will remain in jail," he said.
"It's very important for me to have him look us in the eyes and self-examine himself. The question is not only about hurting Messianic Jews. He also targeted Arabs, leftists and many other people. His traget is the entire people of Israel. Today it's me and tomorrow it’s you."
He said his son had yet to recover from the attack. "It's very difficult for Ami to deal with this mentally, and he is still going through difficulties and trying to go back to routine. He said to me this morning, 'Goodbye and hang in there.' We are giving him the time and space to deal with what happened," he added.
The trial will be open to the public and will be held in front of Judges Zvi Segal, Moshe Drori and Moshe Hacohen. Justice Segal will read the indictment to Teitel and ask the defendant to confirm that he understands it.
The defendant's representation has yet to be finalized, and it is unclear who will be representing him in the court. Therefore, there is a good chance he will ask the court to delay the rest of the hearings.
After the indictment was filed, Teitel told reporters in court, "It was a pleasure and honor to serve my God. God is proud of what I have done. I have no regrets."