On March 20th, 2008, 15-year-old Ami Ortiz stayed home from school. It was Purim – a Jewish festival in which holiday baskets are sent to friends and acquaintances to commemorate the Jews’ thwarting of Haman’s evil plot as recorded in the book of Esther in the Bible. To Ami’s delight, someone left a holiday package on the Ortiz family’s doorstep. When young Ami opened the package, it exploded in his face, filled his body with hundreds of pieces of shrapnel and left him in critical condition. Ami’s father, David, is a pastor of a Messianic community in the town of Ariel. Apparently, this was not an attempt to injure a fifteen year old boy, but rather an attempt to murder a minister of the gospel in Israel.
A police investigation was opened after the bombing. However, the Israeli police were extremely indifferent and apparently negligent in conducting the inquiry. The surveillance cameras which had been installed by the Ortiz family actually managed to film the person who delivered the package. They handed this recording over to the authorities; but to their dismay, no arrests were made and the police refused to return the tape to the Ortiz family. A year after the tape was confiscated by the police and after repeated refusals by them to release their property, the family brought the matter to court. With Ami and his parents present, the judge ruled to return the tape to the Ortiz family.
In May 2008, a day after a revealing expose on the issue was aired on Israeli television (Channel 1, "Yoman Shishi"), police contacted the Ortiz family asking them to resend many important documents pertaining to the investigation – the original copies had been lost. This proves that nothing had been done until the issue was brought to the media, two months after the actual event. Distinguished lawyers and representatives of pro-Israeli organizations tried to bring this case before government officials. Promises were made, but with no satisfactory results. It is suspected that a number of high-ranking officials and fundamentalist Rabbis in Israel are to this day, attempting to engage in a serious cover-up of the true situation.
Ami’s story was also covered by the prestigious program “Uvda” which is a documentary news program that delves into news stories in depth. It especially features stories where justice is not being served. It had a powerful affect on the Israeli public, further revealing the fact that in Israel there is a large community of Jews who believe that Yeshua is the Messiah according to the prophecies of the Tenach. It exposed the hatred and opposition of the anti-Messianic group Yad L’achim. David and Leah received calls of support from Israelis all over Israel for days afterwards, condemning the bombing and expressing their support for their family. CBN, Maoz, and the Jerusalem Institute for Justice have covered the case with powerful videos as well.
In January 2010, a full length documentary was released in Korea called “Restoration”. Made by a Korean Christian film company, they captured the subject of the persecution of the Messianic Body in Israel, using Ami’s case as their focal point. It was a huge success in Korea, playing in movie theatres for 4 months, and won the Monaco Film Festival prize in 2010 for best feature length documentary.
We are concerned that if violence against Messianic believers in Israel goes unchecked by the prosecuting authorities, it can create a slippery slope of continuing violence towards the community. A case in point, about two months after the Ortiz bombing, in May of 2008, hundreds of copies of the New Testament were publically burned by fanatic yeshiva students in Or Yehuda, a small town near Tel Aviv. Or Yehuda’s deputy mayor, Uzi Aharon, went on record at the time of the burning and called the actions of the yeshiva students a “commandment.” Furthermore, Aharon refused to unequivocally condemn the burning of the books; he even admitted that he had helped organize the mass book burning. A complaint has been submitted to the police in light of criminal laws in Israel which prohibit desecration of sacred texts and public humiliation of religious groups.
The police began an investigation of this incident, and took the testimonies of Mr. Charles Kopp and Mr. Harry Tees from the United Christian Council Israel. They functioned as witnesses and swore that the books in the photos of the burning in the Newspapers were in fact New Testaments. The police officers heading the investigation claimed that once the Attorney General, Mr. Menahem Mazuz gives them his approval, they will summon Mr. Aharon for questioning. As of today, this has not happened.
Since then, two churches in Jerusalem have been attacked by arsonists and burned, a Pastor’s car in Beit Shaen has been firebombed, a Messianic baker’s business has been denied the Kashrut license only because she is a Messianic believer, jobs have been lost and visas and citizenship denied because of faith in Yeshua.
Fliers, showing pictures of Messianic leaders and congregational members have been circulated in every major city and many smaller settlements in Israel. These fliers contain a message to the public to be aware of missionaries who are trying to steal the souls of Jews, and who masquerade as Jews but are not. Names and addresses have been published under the pictures, which is against the law. In Ariel, the fliers were posted in every bus stop from Tel Aviv to Ariel, a distance of 45 kilometers. We do not know if the perpetrators of the bombing in the Ortiz home were the ones who published these fliers, but at the very least, the fliers incited and helped them to identify the family and their address.
Press and media coverage have continued extensively on the Ami Ortiz case. These have not only continued to lift up the name of Yeshua in Israel, but have also continued to put pressure on the authorities to being justice to the case. In May of 2009, the FBI officially became involved in the case, because David and Leah are dual American and Israeli citizens. Their help with the Shin Bet moved the investigation forward quickly until Jack Teitel was arrested on Oct. 7, 2009.
"These things have I spoken to you, so that you wouldn’t be caused to stumble. They will put you out of the synagogues. Yes, the time comes that whoever kills you will think that he offers service to God. They will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor Me. But I have told you these things, so that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you about them." (John 16:1-4 )