Ten years ago in the early hours of a July morning on a Tel Aviv street, two people had a fateful encounter. For one, it meant everything. For the other, it meant nothing. Gal Beck was a happy 16 year-old boy riding home on a motor scooter with his best friend by his side on another scooter. It was early Saturday morning around 3 AM. They stopped at an intersection for a red light and chatted for a bit. Then the light turned green. Gal started first, then his friend followed.
At the same moment a 20 year-old woman barreled into the intersection from the opposite direction. By the accounts of most witnesses she was speeding, traveling nearly 60 mph. She ran the red light and crashed into Gal. The accident killed him. His friend wasn’t injured at all, but lives to this day with the shattering memory of what happened that night.
Neither of the boys were drinking. Neither had taken drugs or were using prescription medication. That much we know. But until now, we knew almost nothing about the driver who killed Gal. No Israeli knows her name. The case was closed six weeks after the accident “for lack of evidence.” This happened despite the fact that numerous witnesses testified to the police that the driver was speeding and that she ran the red light. Either no blood alcohol test was ever done or none appears in the police record.
There was a single witness, a female taxi driver, who testified in complete contradiction to all the other witnesses that the boys ran the red light and that the light was green when the driver crossed into the intersection. Channel 1 TV aired a documentary (video above) on the case recently in which it interviewed the taxi driver for 90 minutes, and no less than 20-30 times she affirmed before a hidden camera that the driver ran the red light and the boys had a green light. The next night, when the camera crew approached her for an actual interview, appearing coached and well-rehearsed, she reverted to the story in the police record which blamed Gal Beck and his friend for the accident.
The driver testified to the police that she was traveling 30 mph and that she was absolutely certain it was green when she entered the intersection.
Such tragic accidents happen everywhere, in Israel and around the world. In many such places there are miscarriages of justice like the one that occurred here. But there are several aspects of this case that cause it to rise to greater significance. First, the driver, whose identity is concealed under gag order, was the daughter of a wealthy, powerful and well-connected Israeli family. Second, the Tel Aviv chief prosecutor, Ruth David, who heard the case was later accused of massive corruption in her handling of several key organized crime cases after she left the prosecutor’s office. After leaving office she moved to a defense firm run by a powerful mob-connected attorney, Ronel Fisher, who also was accused of bribery and corruption and colluding with her on these cases.
The Fisher-David case made front-page headlines in Israel. Crooked cops, crooked prosecutors, and crooked defense attorneys colluding on behalf of Mafiosi. It’s the stuff of Hollywood films. But the screaming headlines ignore the quiet trauma of a mother and father who lost a beloved son. The best friend who watched him die. And witnesses beset by guilt who wondered why they were never questioned by police. These are the plain simple people who are victims of a corrupt system. They don’t have the power or influence to make the system work for them. They take what comes and hope for the best even when they know something is wrong, but that they can’t fix it. Imagine the helplessness of Oded and Ruthie Beck in the face of a justice system serving the interests of the 1%, Israel’s powerful oligarchic families.
Though Israelis may not be told the identity of the young woman who took Gal Beck’s life, you can. She is Shani Palti-Schulz, now age 30. When Channel 1 called her to talk about the accident she professed not to remember. Then she said she had no interest in discussing it. In the past 24 hours, she’s deleted her Facebook account, which used to display the accompanying portrait of her scarfing down a yummy burger. No such pleasures for Gal.
Life has been good to Shani. She’s the daughter of Nadav Palti (his bio), the CEO of Dori Media, one of Israel’s most successful television production companies. Recently, he was the chairman for the International Emmy awards.
She married into the family which owns one of Israel’s most lavish catering companies. It entertains the wealthiest of Israel’s families: does their weddings, their bnai mitzvah, their corporate events.
The wedding was covered in the society pages, and even in the sober business publication, Calcalist. There was no mention of any blemish in the bride’s past. All was sweetness and light.
That’s the way life goes for Israel’s 1%. They are protected from their evil deeds. They have connected lawyers who do God knows what to get beloved daughters like Shani off. Bribe witnesses? Very possibly. Bribe police commanders? Possibly. Even bribe chief prosecutors? Why not?
Unfortunately, the documentary did not delve into the corruption that resulted in Gal’s case being closed so abruptly. It didn’t question Ruth David. It didn’t investigate whether corruption played a role. It should have. But in Israel those powerful families have lawyers who threaten defamation suits which could drag on for years and bankrupt media companies. Better not to go there if it can be helped.
But thankfully, we can do what Israeli media may not. We can offer a scintilla of light and justice to the family. We can offer Israelis what should be theirs by right: knowledge and information.
Family and friends of Gal have launched a Facebook page calling for the reopening of his case.