The Rise of the Israeli Mafia

A Tablet investigative series, written by my old goombah, Douglas Century, looks at the Israeli mafia. The author is guided by Ilan Benshoshan, who grew up on the street of Shchunat Hatikvah, "a breeding ground for Israel's toughest mob bosses," and today's introductory piece offers background and context to this subculture:

As the economic opportunities contract--this year, according to Israel's Central Bank, marked the country's worst recession in its 61-year history--and as more and more of the market in this formerly socialist country is privatized, Israel's underworld, once a dangerous if quaint West Side Story-like demimonde governed by its own code of honor, has rapidly morphed into a hellish landscape, similar to the blood-soaked world of the Camorra and Sicilian Mafia as rendered in the book Excellent Cadavers and the film Gomorra.

As long as the mobsters stuck to that age-old social contract to keep homicide within the mishpochah, the mob killings of the Holy Land generated considerable tabloid sensation but little public condemnation.  Bosses like Yehezkel Aslan were known more for their patronage and protection and, among the general public, inspired more awe than terror. ... Today's breed of Israeli mobsters, however, are far more violent, ruthless, and young--many still in their 20s and early 30s. Obeying none of the boundaries of the older generation and harboring few qualms about killing innocent bystanders, the new crime tycoons are making many Israelis feel an acute sense of crisis and insecurity, as if the country is being swept by a wave of organized crime.