US/World News

Father of teen accused of JCC bomb threats apologizes

(JTA) – The father of the Israeli-American teenager arrested on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs and Jewish institutions, apologized for his son’s actions. The father appeared in his first interview in Israel, nearly two weeks after he was arrested along with his son following a months-long undercover investigation by Israel’s anti-fraud unit, as well as the FBI in the United States and law enforcement in other countries. “To all the Jews in the United States, I want to convey an unequivocal message: We are very sorry from the bottom of our hearts. We are good Jews, we do not hate you. There was no hatred here. His motive is solely the disease,” the teen’s father said in the interview with Israel’s Channel 2 from his home in Ashkelon in southern Israel where he remains under house arrest, on suspicion that he knew about his son’s activities, a charge he denies. The identity of the suspect, 19, is under a gag order in Israel, though he has been identified in reports in other countries. The father, who was not seen in the interview, is identified only as Eli, a pseudonym.

“The world has to understand. This boy is different, he’s unique,” said his father.

The father said he has undergone three surgeries to remove tumors, after being exposed to harmful chemicals in his job, and that his son also has a benign tumor in his head. At a court hearing last week, the teen’s attorney presented photographs and medical imaging of a non-malignant brain tumor that the defense says affects his behavior.

The teen is also accused of a series of threats made in Israel, Europe, Australia and New Zealand in the past six months and of making a threatening call to Delta Airlines, leading to the emergency landing of at least one plane.

The teen’s mother was interviewed on Channel 2 on Saturday night. She asserted amid tears that the threats were not her son’s fault because he cannot control his behavior due to the tumor and his autism. The teen was born in the United States; the family moved to Israel when he was six. He was homeschooled from first grade and, according to his mother, rarely left home and has no friends.

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