Members of the Orthodox community of Virginia Beach, which once included a man recently arrested on terror charges, expressed shock and condemnation Monday over his alleged crimes.
Israeli authorities announced on Sunday that they had arrested American-born Ya'acov Teitel for carrying out a series of deadly terrorist shootings and bombings over a dozen years, in which two Palestinians were killed and left-wing academic Prof. Ze'ev Sternhell was wounded.
"The community is in shock," Rabbi Chaim Silver told The Jerusalem Post. "Obviously, as Orthodox and Torah-observant Jews, violence is not something we at all support."
Silver pointed out that the Teitel family had moved to Israel several years earlier, and that few if any of the 150 families in the Orthodox community there kept in touch with them.
One member of the community who had known the family described them as "seemingly normal" and said he would never have predicted Teitel's involvement in the acts detailed by Israeli authorities.
"He was kind of a quiet, soft-spoken, pleasant guy," he said, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue. "I didn't expect him to be part of this."
He added that Teitel hadn't shared his thinking about moving to Israel and what he planned to do there at that time. He said the family had left Virginia around 2001.
"Everyone has a very strong love for the Land of Israel," Silver said of the tight-knit Orthodox community, which he joined four years ago, long after the Teitels left.
But he said that in that time, he didn't recall any other families making aliya or choosing to live in the West Bank.
"It would be very hard to believe that anybody would applaud such actions," he said.
Another leader in the community, Gershon Litt, echoed his sentiments.
"It's a horrible thing for Jews in general. It's a horrible thing for our community," said the head of the area kollel.
He described conversations in which people had noted their shock and denounced what had happened.
The wider Jewish community, which numbers around 14,000, has had a similar reaction.
"We deplore the actions of this individual, as such behavior is against the core beliefs of Judaism," said Harry Graber, executive vice president of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater. "Our community is shocked by these developments, and our hearts go out to the families of the victims."