Jack Tytell

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Jack Tytell (B: Nov. 1972) was born in Miami, Florida, the son of Mark and Dianne Tytell, American ultra-Orthodox Jews. His surname is sometimes incorrectly back-transliterated into Roman letters as Teitel.

He is (January 2011) in custody in Ayalon Prison awaiting trial. On 23 January, it was reported that he had "sustained light injuries to his hand ... when he imagined he was fighting demons and threw a pot at a mirror in his cell"[1]. Teitel's associates were accusing the Prison Service of trying to conceal his mental deterioration and preventing him of proper care. According to them, Teitel had lost his sanity a long time ago and had even been deemed unfit to stand trial by prison psychiatrists. A district court was expected to address the matter later than month.

Teitel's acquaintances said his mental state had deteriorated over the previous few weeks. During this time, they said, he had been "fighting demons" he believed were attacking him, jumped around and hid inside his cell. In one incident Teitel "fought a demon" he claimed was hiding in his mirror. He threw a pot at the mirror and lightly injured his hand. In another incident Teitel was found unraveling the velvet curtain covering the Ark of the prison's synagogue, claiming demons were hovering around it.

A father of four, Teitel was arrested by the YAMAM unit of the Israeli police on 7 October 2009 as he was hanging flyers in the Jerusalem area of Har Nof in support of an attack on a Tel Aviv gay and lesbian youth club in August that year in which two people were killed.

A gag order on his arrest was lifted on 1 November 2009. On that day it was reported that, at that stage, Teitel had confessed to carrying out the following:

Teitel was also suspected of murdering two police officers in the Jordan Valley and confessed to the gay centre shooting, though the police have stated that they are certain he was not involved in either.

A former student of the Akiva Hebrew Day School in Lathrup Village, Michigan, Teitel formally immigrated to Israel in 2000 (some sources indicate 2002), but made numerous prior visits to the country. Police believe he was able to smuggle 10 guns and rifles from the US to Israel, starting in 1997, including an M-16 rifle, a Ruger sniper rifle and a Glock handgun.

The Glock is believed to be the murder weapon used in both 1997 murders. Teitel told police both murders were committed in retaliation for Palestinian suicide attacks. He was arrested in 2000 in connection with the murder of the Palestinian shepherd, but was released for lack of evidence.

Teitel was arrested during a police operation during which, according to local residents of Har Nof, dozens of police and SWAT officers deployed in the area and began pursuing a man who was spotted throwing away a suspicious looking bag.

The man, later identified as Teitel, was arrested while posting flyers attacking the gay community and praising the man who carried out the deadly attack on the Tel Aviv gay youth center in August. When the police retrieved the bag, they found two handguns in it. The posters read "Two months ago one of the holy knights of God, the black bear, killed two sodomites and saved our sacred people from the wrath of God".

Teitel was turned over for Shin Bet interrogation, while SWAT teams raided four locations connected with the case: his Shuvat Rachel home; his brother-in-law 's home in the settlement; the home of his parents, Mark and Dianne Tytell, in Beitar Ilit, in Gush Etzion; and his mother-in-law's home in Har Nof, where two computers were confiscated.

The search of his home and its immediate premises uncovered a cache of guns (see the picture in this article), parts used in making explosive devices, binoculars and pellets used to maximize the impact of explosives, as well flyers inciting against the gay community.

Two days after his arrest, police forces raided Teitel's home again. They were spotted by a few local residents, who attempted to stop them from entering the settlement. The non-violent objection was unsuccessful. This time, the police found an explosive device buried in the yard.

According to this article,

Teitel ... began making regular trips to Israel using a tourist visa in the mid-1990s, about the time young settlers in the West Bank began to coalesce into the "hilltop youth." He began to wander around the Hebron hills and became enamored with the farming lifestyle there.

Teitel has said that in June 1997 he killed an Arab taxi driver and a Palestinian shepherd. Two months later, the Shin Bet security service arrested him; he said during his investigation that he came to Israel precisely to carry out attacks against Palestinians, in revenge for suicide bombings.

Teitel was released, however, and returned to the United States, where he worked as a computer technician. He was subsequently informed (in 2003) that the case was closed due to lack of evidence.

He returned to Israel in 1999, moving alone to the northern West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel; he formally immigrated to Israel in December 2000. A year later, his parents and younger sister joined Teitel in Israel, moving to Beitar Illit, an ultra-Orthodox West Bank settlement.

Teitel married Rivka Pepperman, a dance teacher from Manchester, England in 2003. The couple has four children, ranging in age from 3 months to 5 years old. His wife said he had recently been having trouble finding work.

Teitel was apparently something of an outsider in Shvut Rachel, as a result of his limited proficiency in Hebrew and what neighbors described as his introverted nature. They said he was hardly seen around the settlement, and didn't take part regularly in services at the local synagogue.

According to this article,

Tytell’s parents gave their son an itinerant childhood balanced by a strong connection to Orthodox Judaism and to the military. Mark, his father, was a dentist in the U.S. Navy, and the family relocated every few years to a different Orthodox community in a new city: Kendale Lakes, in Miami, Florida; Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia; West Rogers Park, in north Chicago; and Oak Park, outside Detroit. In Tytell’s senior year in high school the family moved to Athens, Greece, and then back to Virginia and then to Florida.

By that time, Tytell’s views had apparently gelled. Ed Codish says that everyone in the school knew Tytell hated Arabs and wanted to kill them. “He was not secretive about his feelings,” Codish says. But teachers did not speak to Tytell about his racist outbursts. “He was not one to confront about his ideas. He was intimidating and never gave the impression that he was listening,” Codish says. As Codish is talking, I can almost envision Tytell leaving the United States at 25, setting out to exact righteous vengeance for the Arab attacks against Jews in the Holy Land.

Although many of Tytell’s fellow students refused to speak to me on the record, they gave descriptions very similar to those given by the Codishes. And a look through Akiva Hebrew Day School’s class of 1990 yearbook verifies the profile of the young Jewish boy as a weapon-obsessed character with violent urges. On its first page is a drawing of the school bordered by the students’ names with personalized icons next to each one. On the right-hand corner Jack Tytell’s name is drawn with a picture of a tank. Tytell’s senior portrait is neat and conservative. He’s wearing a white suit and a striped tie and sports an easy smile that is made a bit less welcoming by his off-centered eyes. Underneath his portrait is a quotation, signed anonymous, that reads, “Akiva is like a bottomless pit, the misery is endless.” On the page after his portrait is a collage of photos of Jack as a teenager. In one picture he crouches in an athletic stance wearing a bush hat camouflaged with foliage. His face is under a gas mask, and he clutches what looks like a machine gun with his finger on the trigger. His other hand squeezes the barrel, pointed at the camera. On a page titled, “Last Will and Testament,” where students wrote what they would want for their last day, Tytell asked for “an Uzi and a grenade, [teacher] Rabbi Lopin’s home address in Seattle and a Valium.”

Tytell’s odyssey from the United States to Israel, from an Orthodox community in Miami, to Ben-Gurion Airport, to Jerusalem, past a few military checkpoints, north on Route 60, and up the hill to Shvut Rachel, is not unique, and according to Ed Codish, neither is his xenophobic mindset. “I know many people like him, and there are many more,” the former teacher says seriously and with a noticeable sense of shame. While only a small minority of Jews who make aliyah from the United States are radicals, Codish suggests, they are notably overrepresented among the handful of settlers who have urged the expulsion of all Palestinians from the West Bank and who have committed acts of extreme violence.

According to this article,

A native-born American, he made up his mind when he was still living in the United States to go to Israel in order to kill Arabs. He took apart a pistol, put the metal parts in a video recorder and the plastic parts into a coat pocket. When he arrived in Israel, he purchased 200 rounds and practiced shooting, all the while collecting intelligence.

In June 1997, he hired a car at the Eldan rental agency, and parked it near the Holyland Hotel. He then went to the city center, walked to Damascus Gate, and caught a Palestinian taxi. On the way he spoke about the weather, to ensure that the driver was an Arab. Near the hotel, he shot the driver, Samir Bablisi, once in the head. He drove away with the car he had rented earlier. Two youths returning from the Malcha Mall found Bablisi's body.

According to this article

Teitel arrived in Israel in the mid-1990s and wandered around the West Bank, primarily in the southern Hebron Hills and Kfar Tapuah, sometimes observing the Sabbath in one of the settlements in the area.

At one point Teitel and his parents sought to establish a farm settlement. The Jewish Agency suggested that Teitel's family establish a farm community in the Negev, but due to bureaucratic obstacles, the plan never came to fruition. Ultimately, Teitel settled in the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel in the northern West Bank, where he raised goats.

During his recent interrogation by the Shin Bet, Teitel admitted to shooting to death an Arab shepherd from the West Bank village of Yatta in 1997 on a highway near the settlement of Carmel, five minutes from Amshalem's farm.

According to information obtained by Haaretz, Teitel was arrested by the police a short time after the shooting, and denied any involvement. In the absence of sufficient evidence to pursue a case against him, Teitel was released and he dropped off the security forces' radar screen.

According to this article,

"He was a lone attacker," a senior Shin Bet official said when explaining why it took some 12 years since the first attack to arrest Teitel, who has a degree in business and made a living by developing websites.

Teitel, officials said, was an "autodidact" when it came to weapons expertise. In addition to the gun smuggled by air, Teitel is alleged also smuggled another nine automatic machine guns and pistols into Israel hidden in a shipping container. His father, who now lives in the settlement of Beitar Illit, served for many years as a dentist in the US Marines and officials said it was possible that Teitel learned about weapons and explosives during his time on military bases.

"He is an autodidact when it came to using weapons and assembling bombs," the Shin Bet official said. "They were not the most advanced devices but they were pretty sophisticated and deadly."

Teitel was actually arrested by police and the Shin Bet upon his return to Israel in 2000 based on intelligence they had obtained indicating that he was behind the 1997 shootings. The police released him after they could not find evidence to support the intelligence. For this reason, Teitel was allowed to continue to receive an official license to carry a pistol which was discovered loaded and on him when he was arrested last month.

Officials said that Teitel was extremely cautious and did not share his attacks with anyone including his wife. As an example, police said that he was nabbed in Har Nof last month hanging flyers while wearing thick gloves in order to not leave a fingerprint. However, he had been under surveillance for a period of time before then.

. . .

In April 2007, Teitel allegedly planted a bomb next to the Beit Jamal Monastery near Beit Shemesh. A Palestinian driving a tractor set off the bomb and was injured. Teitel told his interrogators that he planted the device since he heard that the monastery was seducing Jewish children with candies.

Teitel confessed to planting another bomb in the Jerusalem neighborhood Ramot near a police car on May 15, 2007. The bomb exploded but no one was injured. A month later he allegedly planted another bomb on the side of a road near the Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo and detonated it as a police car passed by. No one was injured.

Teitel, officials said, made the explosive devices in a room in his family's home in Shevut Rahel. He hid the weapons cache near his home and hid another gun near the settlement of Adei Ad.

He confessed to planting a bomb on March 20, 2008 at the entrance to the Ortiz family home in Ariel, who he believed were messianic Jews and were trying to convert Jews to Christianity.

On September 25, 2008, Teitel planed a bomb at the entrance to the home of Sternhell in Jerusalem, which went off and injured the well-known academic. He said he decided to target Sternhell since he understood that the professor had called to kill Jewish settlers.

He also confessed to stabbing an Arab youth in 1997 in Independence Park since he thought he was gay.

Officials said that Teitel was in the midst of planning additional attacks but would not specify against whom.

In the arms cache found near his house, police discovered a sophisticated sniper rifle, an M15 machine gun, an M16 shortened automatic rifle, a Glock pistol as well as a Browning 9mm. The gun that he said he smuggled into Israel aboard a British Airways flight and was used in the 1997 murders was not discovered by police. He said he hid it next to the Sha'are Zedek hospital in Jerusalem and despite extensive searches it was not found.

While police do not have the murder weapon, they said that Teitel confessed to the murders, reenacted them and knew details that only the murderer could have known.

According to this article,

Tytell’s arrest has brought scrutiny to population groups that are identified with him: settlers, ultra-nationalist religious Jews, and Orthodox American immigrants to Israel. And while much is now known about Tytell’s years in the West Bank settlement of Shvut Rachel, where he moved in 1999, almost nothing has been revealed about his upbringing in Orthodox communities in various cities in the U.S. (In fact, nearly all published reports, and even his Wikipedia page, spell his name “Teitel,” an adequate transliteration of the name from Hebrew, but incorrect.)

But in interviews with more than a dozen former classmates, camp counselors, teachers and others who knew him and his family during those formative years, a portrait is beginning to emerge of the young Jack Tytell.

Described by some as a “loner” who had trouble making friends, Tytell was on the move for much of his childhood as his U.S. Navy dentist father took the family from posting to posting. He is said to have developed a certain fascination, or even romance, with guns and weapons. But the picture is complicated by the fact that Tytell never seemed to bully anyone or exhibit any violent behavior.

And whether in his teenage years religious or political ideology helped shape him, or provided the framework for his later alleged acts, seems an open question. When he heard of Tytell’s arrest in October, Ed Codish, who taught English at Akiva when Tytell was there, wasn’t surprised, he told The Jewish Week. But thinking back to the high school kid he knew in Detroit, Codish concluded that the alleged crimes were probably “pathological, not ideological.”

It’s a characterization likely at odds with that of the Israeli police, who believe they see a pattern in Tytell’s alleged crime spree, one perhaps fueled by a hard-right, national-religious set of beliefs.

Samuel Heilman, a sociology professor at Queens College who has written extensively about fervently Orthodox Jews, said most Americans who make aliyah today “are far more nationalistic than the run-of-the-mill Israelis.” This can yield “a powerful mix of ideology, nationalism and religious beliefs” and occasionally “America’s [proclivity towards] violence,” Heilman said.

But Prof. Joshua Werblowsky, a forensic psychiatrist at the Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia, sharply distinguished between “lone wolf” terrorists and members of a terrorist group. “Group terrorists are generally ‘crusaders’ for some cause, whereas lone terrorists are no more or less ideological than the average person,” he said.

Tytell’s lawyer, Adi Kedar, told The Jewish Week Monday that he does not yet know much about his client’s past. Asked if he thought Tytell’s alleged crimes were motivated by ideology or something else, Kedar said, “It’s definitely complicated.”

Kedar said, as has been widely reported, that Tytell has admitted to all of the crimes in the indictment, but the lawyer stressed that the admission does not mean that he actually perpetrated them.

Jack Tytell is the eldest child of Dr. Mark and Dianne Tytell, who have three other children: Israel, David and Rivka. Mark practiced dentistry with the U.S. Navy (he is now retired, living with his wife in Betar Illit, a West Bank settlement with a large haredi population.) The family was not initially religiously observant, although Dianne is of Turkish-Jewish origin and has a traditional and Orthodox-affiliated background. During Jack’s childhood, according to those who know the Tytells, the family began to adopt a rigorous Orthodox lifestyle and to consider eventually moving to Israel.

In order to retire from the Navy with a 50 percent pension, Dr. Tytell had to put in 20 years, during which he was subject to new postings every few years. In all, the family spent time in Miami; Chicago; Detroit; Athens, Greece and Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Va., including multiple stints in several of those locations. The family lived in five different metropolitan areas (in two countries) during the formative second decade of Jack’s life.

According to acquaintances of the Tytell family (nearly all of whom asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of Tytell’s situation), the children were afraid of Mark, as was Dianne. Mark carried himself with a military bearing, often wearing his uniform in purely civilian contexts, a practice that the military generally frowns upon.

A classmate of one of the younger Tytell children recalls Mark as “a yeller.” In terms of parental influence, Dianne once mentioned to an acquaintance, “I raised Rivka; Mark raised the boys.”

Although the parents wanted to fit in with the various Orthodox communities they joined, their transience, coupled with their relative newness to observance in general, appeared to make it difficult. They were not antisocial or non-communal, although they exhibited some social awkwardness, according to family acquaintances. They had affinities toward the more haredi end of the American Orthodox spectrum and lived in more “black hat” neighborhoods in Chicago and Detroit, but they were unabashedly Zionist. Their choice of schools for their children reflects the same ambivalence; they sometimes sent their children to Modern Orthodox co-ed schools and sometimes to more haredi single-sex schools, even occasionally switching from one school to another in the same community.

See this Wikipedia (English) article

See this Wikipedia (German) article     (English translation)

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Other entities whose entries refer to Jack Tytell

Rivka (Rebecca) Pepperman   • Moshe Avitan   • Yosef Eshpinoza   • Adi Keidar   • Leah Ortiz   • David Ortiz   • Isa Jabarin   • Samir Balbisi   • Mark Tytell   • Dianne Tytell   • Ruth Pepperman   • Rivka Tytell_(2)

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