Ra’anana’s answer to Tony Soprano was “whacked” in broad daylight yesterday afternoon, when a bomb exploded in his car as he was driving along a busy Tel Aviv street. He had just left a court hearing involving two of his sons, wearing a trilby à la Jack “The Hat” McVitie (the 1960s London mobster whose murder led to the downfall of the notorious Kray twins).
Yaakov Alperon, aka “Don Alperon”, 54, was reputedly (I never had the pleasure) “boss” of Israel’s third largest “family”. A number of attempts had been made on his life, including a grenade attack on his home in 2001 and another car bombing in 2003. He was thought to be battling with the rival Abergil and Abutbul families over bottle recycling (a racket worth five million Dollars a year), and had an ongoing feud with another gangster, Amir Mulner, dating back to a 2006 arbitration summit gone awry – knives and guns were drawn, and Mulner emerged with a stab wound to the neck, widely attributed to Alperon.
Yesterday’s incident is one of numerous mafia-related to make the headlines in Israel this year. In June, Yoram Haham, a well-known criminal defence lawyer, was also blown up in his car in the heart of Tel Aviv. In July, a 31-year old woman was shot dead in front of her husband and two young children on Bat Yam beach, after being caught in the crossfire of a failed mob hit. And in September, in Netanya – very popular with English émigrés, seeking a peaceful retirement by the sea – local “boss”, Charlie Abutbul, was shot and critically injured in a café.
Repeated references to the Almighty, by Alperon’s brother on yesterday’s evening news, had me thinking of the monologue of Jules, Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction, before he carried out an execution: “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know my name is the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
Many of our local mafioso come from traditional north African families. One cannot help but wonder whether some rabbis, if not condoning their followers’ activities, turn a blind eye to them, in return for some personal or communal sweetener. Perhaps that is why we regularly hear such criminals invoking God – and, most nauseautingly, donning skullcaps for court appearances – whilst pursuing the most un-Godly of activities.
Unlike in The Sopranos, where one often even finds oneself sympathising with the characters (I must admit to my eyes welling up when Pussy got “whacked”), the local, non-fictitious variety inspire no such feelings of warmth – again, in the words of Jules, “The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the iniquities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men.”
Alperon’s nephew was less ambiguous on this morning’s news, than his uncle had been yesterday evening: “If he is not punished from Above, he will be punished by other means. We’ll find out who did it. It’s only a matter of time.”
Three innocent bystanders – including a 13-year old standing at a bus stop – were injured in yesterday’s blast. And even anti-tank missiles have been a favoured weapon of mob assassins in the past. So, sit tight everyone, while all hell breaks loose.
Oh, it’s never boring in Israel.