August 1, 2002
The Dark Side of Israeli L.A.
How much do we, the Israeli community, love reading and hearing about success stories of Israelis in America, and about how the Israeli mind comes up with great new inventions. But sometimes we fail to understand that many of these successes were not come by honestly, and that the Israeli mind also knows how to manipulate, deceive and trample, and to take illegal shortcuts to achieve coveted success.
And, so, when the owner of a tiny newsstand drives a new, fully loaded Porsche, we are envious and impressed: "He really made it big," we think. Only afterward we discover that his shiny car was purchased using drug money, and that his dizzying success story is going to end with many years in prison.
Last month -- exactly a year after the Israeli community had been shocked to discover that operating in its midst was a widespread network of Israeli drug dealers, one of the biggest ones ever caught in Los Angeles -- we got another slap in the face, with the arrest of at least 15 Israelis from all over the city, accused of supplying 90 percent of the Ecstasy pills consumed in the district.
This is the other side of the Israeli success story in Los Angeles, the ugly side, the dark side, the side that arouses anti-Israeli sentiment, and even anti-Semitism, no less than Israel's actions in the occupied territories arouse controversy.
The data submitted by the police are astonishing: On the detained Israelis, police found 26,000 tablets of Ecstasy -- one of the most dangerous and destructive drugs that exist on this earth; 17 pounds of marijuana, weapons and tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
"This is a monumental quantity of dangerous drugs, whose street value is worth many millions of dollars," one of the investigators said. "The elimination of the network will create at least a temporary drought in the city's Ecstasy market."
The Israelis were arrested in all neighborhoods of the city: Encino, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Van Nuys, Reseda, Hollywood, Calabasas. And that's not all. A source in the police station said that the arrests will continue, and will expand in scope. "The investigation has only just begun," he said.
The wide scope of the crime is frightening, and it paints a picture of a network that would stop at nothing in order to control the market and to rule it with violence: Drug trade, robbery, car theft, armed assault and the worst of all -- selling drugs next to schools.
A partial list of the young group of accused are: Sammy, 24, and Raphi, 34, from Sherman Oaks; Maxim, 25, from Encino; Koby, 21, from Reseda; Tal, 27, from Tarzana; and Neri, 28, from Van Nuys.
All of them, in the eyes of the innocent observer, were L.A. make-it-rich-quick success stories. They drove fancy cars, ate at the finest restaurants, frequented the best clubs, lived it up, threw money around; in short, they "succeeded" in America.
The arrest warrant shows a shocking portrait of a network that was managed and operated remorselessly, even while conducting a real war against other drug rings. They flooded the city with the death tablets, making available to every youth -- for $20 -- a drugged-out stupor.
The arrest of the Israeli ring a year ago, and the network that was uncovered recently, attest to the fact that the Israelis have become the main producers and distributors of Ecstasy in Los Angeles, said one of the investigators in the case. He compared these Israeli rings to the "Colombian Drug Mafia." And so, in one fell swoop, the reputation of Israelis in Los Angeles is destroyed.
Most of those arrested will serve out their sentences in prison, and their coming years will be behind bars -- lock, stock and barrel. The real question is, will other Israelis come in their stead?
Moreover, when will we start to examine these "successful" Israelis in the City of Angels?