Facebooking the underworld

Not long before his legs would be blown off in a car bomb in Ashkelon last night, Dror Damari took to Facebook to wish his friends a good week. Over the course of the next day, around a dozen people left condolence notes on the post, most wishing the newly paraplegic young man a healthy recovery, as he lay in the trauma ward of Ashkelon’s Barzilay Hospital.

Avi Biton (far left), Jacky Benita, and Dror Damari, in a picture Damari posted to his Facebook.

Avi Biton (far left), Jacky Benita, and Dror Damari, in a picture Damari posted to his Facebook after the October 24th car bombing in Ashkelon.

Damari, reportedly an associate of mobster Shalom Domrani, did not have a locked Facebook page, and on Sunday a photo he posted less than 10 days earlier showed him and the victims of the October 24th bombing in happier times, under the caption “so much sorrow” was picked up by the Israeli media.

In that pic, Avi Biton, a senior associate of Domrani can be seen along with Jacky Benita, who would be killed in the blast that blew off one of Biton’s legs.

Fishing around Damari’s Facebook page leads to pages belonging to Benita and his family, and their posts from the day after his death, where they uploaded unfiltered notes of pain and lamentation about their murdered loved one. It also leads to one apparently belonging to Avi Biton, where in his last posts he called on friends to support Ashkelon Mayor Benny Vatkin for re-election.

Damari’s page also includes potentially incriminating pics of him waving around stacks of dollars and 200 shekel bills, as well as photos from his most recent birthday and an apparent trip to Uman, Ukraine this past Rosh Hashanah, to take part in the mass pilgrimage to the grave of Rabbi Nachman of Breslev.

Facebook voyeurism is something that most of us do, probably more than we’d like to admit. In the case of the Israeli crime world, it’s remarkable sometimes how many people with criminal records who are subject to ongoing police investigations maintain open Facebook pages using their real names. To any cop, reporter, or potential enemy they project a glimpse if not more of their personal lives open to the entire internet. It could be an indication that like social networking has made people live their lives out in the open, the same is true for many criminals as well, something that their counterparts from a previous generation would have found unthinkable.

Facebooking murder victims and murder suspects has been a frequent habit of mine, and is something that most Israeli crime reporters also take part in to some degree. It’s how some of their pictures make their way to the press, and affords an easy to access if rather shallow window into their personal lives.

On the one hand it makes for easy, if morbid viewing, the subjects at times fitting many of the stereotypes of Israeli arsim – they love Hugo Boss shirts, drinking Grey Goose out the bottle in the VIP section, ATVs on the beach, and posing next to BMWs. They also seem so very normal in a way, the type of guys or girls who wouldn’t stick out necessarily at a club or the beach in Tel Aviv, showing that really you never know who you’re waiting in line next to in this country, even if they aren’t the type to wait in line.

While such online carelessness by today’s criminals surely makes police and journalistic work a bit easier, it also gives a glimpse of how even people living far outside the boundaries of the law have family members who send them candy crush invites on Facebook, and words of prayer and heartfelt concern posted to their wall in a time of need.

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