JERUSALEM (JTA) — The mother of the Israeli-American teenager arrested on suspicion of calling in more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs and Jewish institutions said her son has autism as well as a brain tumor that affects his behavior.
The woman, whose identity was disguised with digital imagery, was interviewed Saturday night on Israel’s Channel 2. The identity of the suspect, 19, is under a gag order in Israel, though he has been identified in reports in other countries. He was called “M” in the Channel 2 report.
The mother said he was homeschooled after being diagnosed on the autism spectrum and it became clear he could not function within a formal school framework. She stopped working as a biochemist in order to teach her son, who she said is very intelligent.
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 mother said she was “shocked” when she found out that her son was suspected of making the threats against the JCCs and other Jewish institutions in the U.S. She said she did not know how much time he spent on his computer because she works nights and was not home. She also said he rarely left home and had no friends.
She said she had spoken to her son about the JCC bomb threats before his arrest and that he joined her in expressing concern about their Jewish friends in the United States.
She asserted that the threats were not her son’s fault because he cannot control his behavior.
“It’s the tumor. It could happen to anyone with a tumor in his head. He’s autistic, he can’t control it, he can’t think straight. He needs medical help,” she said.
The teen was arrested March 23 at his home in Ashkelon 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.
He also is 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 was born in the United States; the family moved to Israel when he was 6.