This is a guest post by Joseph Weissman.
Two years ago at Purim, Jack Teitel sent Ami Ortiz – the son of Messianic pastors – a bomb disguised as a seasonal gift basket, which nearly killed the 15-year-old teenager, severing two of his toes and damaging his hearing.
According to Ami Ortiz’s mother Leah, Israeli police believe that Teitel held to the Redemption doctrine, which teaches that “idolators” in Israel are delaying the arrival of the Jewish Messiah. In one of Teitel’s anonymous pamphlets preaching hatred of gay Israelis, he called himelf the “Red Hand for Redemption.”
Before he attacked the Ortiz residence, Teitel emailed Pastor David Ortiz pretending to be interested in Jesus – a tactic routinely used by Yad L’Achim, who also boast of spying on Messianic Jews and trying to get them fired from their jobs.
So news that Jack Teitel claims to have volunteered with Yad L’Achim for five years comes as no surprise.
This Purim, Calev Myers of the Jerusalem Institute for Justice has written to Israel’s Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein calling for Yad L’Achim to be outlawed in Israel and declared a terrorist organisation. You can read the letter here (opens in PDF).
Myers’ letter highlights various cases of Yad L’Achim terrorism and harassment against minority groups and individuals within Israel, mostly against Messianic Jews and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Yad L’Achim are responding by threatening to sue Myers for slander through their legal counsel.
Yad L’Achim’s lawyer is none other than Yoram Sheftel, known in Israel as “Satan’s lawyer” for having defended John Demjanjuk in 1993. (Sheftel considers the current Demjanjuk case in Germany as a show trial, and claims that Demjanjuk is more obviously innocent than Alfred Dreyfus.)
In his public response to Myers, Sheftel referred to him as an ‘apostate‘, and not as a lawyer. This is surely because Myers is a Messianic Jew.
Yet why should this even be an issue?
Yad L’Achim’s own leaders are fundamentalist Chabadniks who believe in Menachem Mendel Schneerson as the Jewish Messiah.
Yad L’Achim’s three most prominent officials – head of Jerusalem dept. Binyamin Klugger (a French Catholic-turned Baptist-turned Lubavitcher), head of anti-missionary ops Alex Artovski and Director General Dov Lipshitz – variously affirm that all Jews must become born-again believers in the Rebbe, and see that he is still alive and in control of the world, and that he is God’s essence in a human body.
Should their lawyers also be referred to as ‘apostates’?
Of course not. Yad L’Achim’s leaders are welcome to hold such beliefs in a democracy without fear of being discriminated against on the basis of their religious conviction. Yet neither should they be allowed to persecute those of different beliefs on the basis of their religious conviction. This is basic political liberalism.
There is also the freedom of speech issue to consider: Yad L’Achim have no right to censor people from other faiths who proselytise in Israel (meanwhile in the USA, more than one Yad L’Achim representative has been involved in trying to silence claims of clerical child sex abuse scandals).
Although there is no good reason for Yad L’Achim to stay operational, the decision still rests with Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein, whose term began on 1st February 2010. Weinstein was endorsed and then appointed as Israel’s Attorney-General by Justice Minister Yaacov Ne’eman in November of last year.
Only a week prior to Weinstein’s appointment, Ne’eman claimed at a conference of religious leaders that Israel should be run according to halachic laws, sparking fears of ‘Talibanization’ within Israel. Applauding these sentiments was Shas’ spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef, who has blessed Yad L’Achim missions. The Shas political leader Eli Yishai – whose Interior Ministry allows Yad L’Achim free reign – was also in attendance.
The issue of Yad L’Achim is a litmus test for Israeli democracy. It is vital that Yehuda Weinstein makes the right decision before Yad L’Achim inflict further damage on Israeli society.
If you would like to write to the Israeli embassy in the UK or the USA and call for Yad L’Achim to be dismantled, please follow the instructions in this action alert.