Ami Ortiz: No Hate
Fifteen-year-old Ami Ortiz, who lives with his family in Ariel, Israel, stayed home from school on Purim, March 20, 2008. He was delighted to discover in the stairwell a gift basket with the message Happy Holidays.” But when he opened the package, it exploded in his face, filling his body with shrapnel, burning him all over, and leaving him near death. Ami’s father, David, is pastor of a Messianic congregation in Ariel that believes that Jesus is the Messiah. The bomb was evidently intended for the father.
In November 2009, Israeli authorities arrested Yaakov “Jack” Teitel and charged him with the Ortiz bombing and other crimes. Teitel, who is Jewish, subsequently confessed to planting the bomb.
In the meantime, Ami was experiencing a miraculous recovery. His injuries from the blast included an eight-inch gash in his throat, damage to his right eye, a ruptured lung, third-degree burns that took the flesh from his thighs, and second-degree burns to his chest and arms. Doctors had to operate on his tongue and were forced to amputate two toes from his left foot. He has undergone twelve surgeries, with four still scheduled.
Before the Purim bombing, the 6′ 5″ Ami was a basketball player with professional prospects. Amazingly, just seven months after the near-fatal injuries, Ami returned to the basketball court and is now almost back to full strength, again able to dunk the ball and jump higher than he could before he was injured.
Now 17, Ami plays in haPoel Ariel, the local basketball league, in his own age group (16-18) and in the adult group (19-35). He still wants to play professionally, but as his mother, Leah, puts it, “We have very much learned to take one day at a time.”
The Maccabiah Games are an international Jewish athletic event held in Israel every four years. In a stirring gesture, the Puerto Rican contingent asked Ami to lead them in the opening ceremony of the Games last July. Ami’s father, who immigrated to Israel from the United States, is from a family of Puerto Rican origin.
Perhaps more amazing than this honor and Ami’s recovery is his attitude toward his attacker. After Teitel was arrested, CBN News1 asked Ami for his reaction.
“Relief, of course to hear that somebody that tried to murder you and your family is in jail,” he said.
That’s only natural. But his feelings toward his attacker are not.
“From the beginning there was no hate,” he said. “I thought maybe there would be a chance I’d change once I saw a face. But thank God, no, nothing’s changed. I’m praying and hoping that in this time in jail he’ll think about it and understand and realize he’s done some pretty serious mistakes and he needs to repent.”
When Teitel’s courtroom trial opened in December 2009, David and Leah Ortiz were there.
“I made eye contact with him,” said the elder Ortiz. “I wanted to let him know that I’m here and we’re alive and he did not succeed and that God had mercy on us. . . . If he doesn’t call upon the name of the Lord and tell the Lord to have mercy on him there’s no hope. But we pray that he will seek repentance.”
“It was important for me to see him,” Mrs. Ortiz added, “and show him he has failed and we exist. He caused us terrible and horrific damage, but did not succeed in blotting us out.”2
But, Mrs. Ortiz later noted, “We are not looking for victory through the conviction of Teitel. We already have the victory because we have forgiven [Teitel].”3
Ami has leaned on a verse from the Hebrew Scriptures that quotes what Joseph told his brothers who sold him into slavery: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).
Matt Sieger is the editor of ISSUES: A Messianic Jewish Perspective. ISSUES is our publication for Jewish people who are willing to consider the question, Who is Jesus? Matt also writes blogs, articles, and reviews for our publications and has edited the book, Stories of Jews for Jesus.