Bedouin extortion gangs target ultra-Orthodox city – report

“Masked Bedouins were waiting for me when I closed my shop for the day and demanded that I pay them 100,000 shekels ($27,000) to ‘guard’ my store,” says a small business owner.

By World Israel News Staff

Bedouin-Israeli organized crime gangs are targeting businesses in Bnei Brak, a Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) city in central Israel and suburb of Tel Aviv, according to a Mako report.

Israel’s peripheral northern Galilee and southern Negev desert regions have long been plagued by the phenomenon of “protection,” in which mafia members threaten to torch small businesses or harm their owners and families, should proprietors refuse to pay thousands of shekels each month to the gangs.

Public Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir has pledged to crack down on this type of extortion, which severely impacts small businesses’ ability to operate, but the practice is showing little signs of slowing down.

“Masked Bedouins were waiting for me when I closed my shop for the day, and demanded that I pay them 100,000 shekels ($27,000) to ‘guard’ my store,” a small business owner in Bnei Brak told Mako.

The victim said the criminals, who were brandishing machine guns, told him that they would create a “bonfire” out of his business if he did not pay, and that “they knew where I live, what my wife does for work, and where my children go to school.”

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The businessman told Mako that he initially transferred the money to the criminals, but quickly realized that the gang would only keep increasing its demands for financial compensation.

“At first, I paid them out of fear… however, it became clear that it would never end.”

Fearing for his life and livelihood after he stopped paying, the man said he was forced “to hire Bedouin bodyguards and security to watch over me and the business.”

Other small businesses confirmed the prevalence of Bedouin extortion gangs operating in the city, expressing that the police were failing to apprehend the lawbreakers.

“It’s scary to live in Bnei Brak. The criminals have taken over and do whatever they want,” a resident told Mako. “The police are doing their best, but they have difficulty reaching the big bosses, the shot-callers who [are] the most dangerous criminals.”

In a separate incident last week, the owner of a bed-and-breakfast in northern Israel described being threatened by a similar criminal gang, and his frustration with what he said was a lack of a robust response from the police.