The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism

American government has failed me and many other terror victims in Israel – and continues to fail us.

April 3, 2012 22:23
3 minute read.
Police tape off light rail area

Police tape off light rail area 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)


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The American government has failed me and many other terror victims in Israel – and continues to fail us. While in 2005 the Justice Department established an office in my son Koby Mandell’s name in order to pursue the killers of American citizens in Israel, the office has never done anything to prosecute Palestinian terrorists. What should have been an honor in my son’s name has become a source of pain.

My family was happy when we heard about the Koby Mandell Act being spearheaded by Sarah Stern, currently president of The Endowment for Middle East Truth. When the act was passed as part of an omnibus rider bill in 2005, we thought it was cause to celebrate.

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But now we feel that we are again victims: the office is an affront to my son’s name.

In fact, we were recently visited by the head of the American Consulate here in Israel. I asked her to find out about the recent activities of The Office of Justice for Victims of Overseas Terrorism (OJVOT) for me. I never heard back from her.

Like most other American terror victims in Israel, I thought that the American government would be involved, would help us. After the signing of the law, the person in charge of the office came to visit us in Israel and assured us that the office would be in touch with all American terror victims, keeping us up to date with the course of the investigations into the murder of our loved ones.

Then he left the job. An interim director took over. We weren’t informed. Then another lawyer became the head of the office, Heather Cartwright. At least this time they told us.

I did learn that the Office helped an American family, the Lukens, after their daughter, Kristine, was murdered on a hike near Beit Shemesh. But Larry Luken told me that he had to approach the office for help after he heard about the Koby Mandell Act. Only when he approached the OJVOT did they work as his liaison.


But here in Israel – no phone calls. I know nothing about what is going on with my son’s case. The killers have never been apprehended. In fact, the State Department has a hefty rewards system, Rewards for Justice, for those who offer information that leads to the capture of terrorists. 100 million dollars has been given to 70 people who have supplied actionable evidence that has led to the apprehension of terrorists.

But the program has not been activated in Israel.

I’m already totally frustrated with the Israeli government and I know that it’s a problem for Americans to investigate terrorists when the Israeli government frees them.

But I grew up in America thinking that it was the land of justice.

My son Koby believed in the American justice system. I always thought he would be a lawyer one day. As the oldest child, he always argued for the rights of his brothers and sister.

The OJVOT is supposed to argue for his rights.

But it doesn’t.

The OJVOT is supposed to investigate, apprehend, indict, extradite and punish terrorists.

But not one terrorist here has been prosecuted. Not one.

At least 54 American citizens have been killed, and 83 wounded here in Israel. Neither the OJVOT nor the Department of Justice has done anything to enforce American law in these cases.

The only terrorist prosecuted under the law was the killer of a Christian missionary in Indonesia. I’m happy that the killers were prosecuted, but still one wonders. Why is there no communication, investigation, prosecution, or indictment here in Israel? The OJVOT is supposed to protect us.

Instead it neglects us.

The writer is co-director of the Koby Mandell Foundation, which runs healing programs for victims of terror and tragedy. She is also the author of “The Blessing of a Broken Heart.”

See for more info or email her at

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