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The Long Saga of Jack Tytell (Teitel)

The American-born Jewish terrorist gets two life sentences

Adam Chandler
April 10, 2013


Jack Tytell, a Florida-born Jew, who murdered two Palestinians and sought to kill countless more, was sentenced yesterday by a Jerusalem court on approximately a dozen different and terrible charges.

The Jerusalem District Court sentenced “Jewish terrorist” Jack Tytell on Tuesday to two life sentences and an additional 30 years in prison for the murder of two Palestinians and an assortment of other crimes.

Just before the sentence was handed down, Tytell said he had no regrets and was proud of what he had done.

Although he was only formally sentenced on Tuesday, he was convicted on January 16.

Back in 2010, Will Yakowicz wrote a feature for Tablet about Teitel that one would call longform now, although I’m not sure the term was in fashion then. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

Two dominant accounts of Tytell’s personality emerged in the interviews I conducted in Israel and the West Bank with his friends, acquaintances, and family members. One described a young Orthodox high-school student who was known for his anti-Arab sentiments. The other portrayed a gentle family man who was devoted to his God and country. Even getting his name right has proven elusive: Some know him as Jack, others as Yaakov, and while his Akiva yearbook has his last name spelled Tytell, most media have taken to referring to him as “Teitel.” Elli Fischer, an Israeli reporter and translator originally from the United States, explained to me that the spelling “Teitel,” which is common in U.S. and English-language Israeli newspaper reports about his case, is due to an incorrect translation of “Tytell” from Hebrew back to English.

The violent crimes to which Tytell has confessed make him an anomaly in the population of Jewish settlers in the West Bank. While tramping through the West Bank, not once was I, a gentile, treated with violence, hate, or disrespect. I played basketball with young settlers, went grocery shopping with a mother of six, and hitched rides with settlers who treated me, a stranger, with hospitality and respect. Yet the relationship between Tytell’s actions and the community that he claimed to represent is a politically explosive one that cannot be easily erased by claiming that Tytell is a psychotic. Though his actions are clearly abhorrent to his former neighbors and schoolmates, he is also a product of certain fringe elements of the communities in which he lived his life and which set the psychological and practical context for his actions.

Another bit of context that seems important to note here–given the abuse Israel’s justice system and image are routinely subjected to in the public sphere–is that rather than being deified for his fanaticism, given honor parades, and having streets named for him, Tytell is going to jail for life.

Adam Chandler was previously a staff writer at Tablet. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, Slate, Esquire, New York, and elsewhere. He tweets @allmychandler.

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