From dentist's son to Jewish terrorist
Yaakov (Jack) Teitel, who was arrested last month for suspected murder and a string of alleged murder attempts, was born in Miami, Florida, in November 1972, the son of Mordechai (Mark) and Devorah (Dianne), American ultra-Orthodox Jews.
His father is a dentist who served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. His mother worked as a medical secretary. When Teitel was a teenager, his family moved to Virginia Beach, near Norfolk, Virginia - the site of the largest naval base in the world.
The family lived in a sleepy neighborhood with many residents who worked for the military, and when asked, veteran residents there had a hard time placing the Teitels. The community wasn't exactly cohesive, one resident said, expressing surprise that a terrorist might have come from the upper-middle-class locale.
Teitel, 37, 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.
The family "kept to themselves," said Moshe Avitan, Teitel's brother-in-law, who also lives in Shvut Rachel. "I was never a dinner guest at their house. I hardly know him, since he didn't speak Hebrew very well."
In 2006, Teitel allegedly took up terrorist activity. Why he did he choose to do so? What were his motives? Those are two questions that still have no clear answers.