(Update: Yaakov Felician was remanded on January 7th, 2014 for allegedly threatening the witness in a [closed] rape case against him. The following post originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post)
Though they say it typically doesn’t happen twice in the same place, in 2013 lightning struck one small corner of Bnei Brak’s Pardes Katz neighborhood over and over, continuously bringing sorrow to a single Israeli family.
Few people had a worse year in 2013 than the Felician family.
In June, police announced the arrest of three suspects in the August 2009 Bar Noar LGBT center shooting, which for four years had been the flagship case for Tel Aviv police and had reportedly cost millions of shekels to investigate.
The three suspects included brothers Haggai and Benny Felician, the former the chief suspect and only man who would end up indicted in the case. According to police, the motive for the murder was the alleged sexual assault of the teenage Benny by the then-manager of the Bar Noar. Hagai, looking to avenge the assault of his brother, then went to the Bar Noar with a pistol and began firing in all directions, leaving 26-year-old Nir Katz of Givatayim and 17-year-old Liz Troubishi from Holon dead and injuring 11 others, according to police.
After the arrests in June, things only got worse for the Felicians.
Benny would end up beating the Bar Noar indictment, but would face a charge of trying to buy an illegal firearm, a case built by a conversation picked up on a wiretap on the state witness in the Bar Noar case. Older brother Yaakov Felician, a one-time top associate of the Avi Ruhan crime family, would later that month be arrested for the rape of a female attorney, though would later be released. Things hit rock bottom in July, when 15 year old Orr Felician, the youngest brother, fell to his death from a construction site where he was helping his father during the summer vacation.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get worse for the family, earlier this month the Channel 2 program “Uvda” aired an investigative report into the 2006 murder of Avi Ruhan (also from Pardes Katz) associate Ayal Salhov, who at the time was a police informant. The report implicated Yaakov Felician, then Salhov’s closest and oldest friend, as the trigger man in the killing.
What becomes of that last tragedy remains to be seen, but over just a few months in 2013 the Felician family was repeatedly touched by fire, becoming, as some joked, the Pardes Katz version of the Kennedys. The Felician curse and the Bar Noar arrests also brought renewed attention to Pardes Katz, long a poor, crime-ridden and forgotten corner of central Israel.
At around the same time that the Bar Noar arrests were made, police also arrested Yitzhak “Hishi” Hadif of Pardes Katz for the repeated bombing of a Tel Aviv Tiv Taam branch.
In the 80s and 90s Hishi was the leader of the “Pardes Katz gang”, which led a bloody war with the Ramat Amidar gang led by the Harari brothers, which left over a dozen people dead. Hadif was later arrested and released in 2011 for allegedly being involved in the shooting of two Pardes Katz men – Yaakov and Hagai Felician.
At one point in late 2013, a few crime reporters joked, it seemed that every major criminal case in central Israel was somehow related to the Felicians or Pardes Katz. Though it had largely changed its “crime neighborhood” image since the 90s, Pardes Katz now found itself again a byword for crime and despair.
The Felician family, on the other hand, was anonymous to most Israelis until 2013, the year in which the cruel hand of fate repeatedly found its way to their doorstep in a little forgotten corner of Israel, somewhere between Ramat Gan and Petah Tikva.