Yair Lapid with his friend Rostick.
Yair Lapid with his friend Rostick. Photo by Barak Ravid
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“A bodyguard is someone who gets paid,” said Yair Lapid during a political forum in Kfar Saba last Friday, when I asked him about the brute standing next to him, seemingly ready to dispose of any potential threat.  “That’s Rostick, he’s my friend. When I go to a crowded place, he comes with me,” said Lapid.

Even though Yesh Atid party chairperson Lapid is no doubt a highly recognizable face among the Israeli public, it was unclear as to why he needed a bodyguard for an appearance in front of 200 pensioners in Kfar Saba. Lapid’s “wise-guy” answer was smart if not a little dodgy, but as opposed to later comments he made, which were not entirely factually correct, these comments were not entirely inaccurate.

Rostick, who personally accompanied Lapid to the forum in Kfar Saba, did in fact work in security in the past, and even ran a small company that provided security for Jerusalem nightclubs. Lapid and Rostick are indeed friends, with a bond going back over a decade, to a time when Rostick was enrolled at the Maften School in Safed, a school for students who could not remain in regular educational institutions.

The source of the details regarding the friendship between Lapid and bodyguard Rostick is no less surprising. Roughly a year and a half ago, an article was published on the IDF Spokesperson's website, under the headline “From gang leader to squad leader.” The article, written by Rotem Karo-Weizman, then a soldier in the IDF Spokesperson's Unit, told the story behind the friendship that developed between the broadcaster and the new immigrant from Uzbekistan.

Rostick, 30 and married with two children, immigrated to Israel at age 8, after his father was killed in a car accident in Uzbekistan. The IDF Spokesperson's Unit article illustrates the difficulties Rostick faced in adjusting to life in Israel. Those difficulties eventually led him to be kicked out of a few different schools, to get in trouble with police, and even sell drugs. At age 14, Rostick was the leader of a gang of roughly 50 children.

“When he was 14 years old, Rostick became enrolled at the Maften School in Safed for youth whose needs cannot be met by the normal education system,” reads the article. “Slowly, Rostik began to rehabilitate, and during that period he met the journalist Yair Lapid, who supported the unique school,” continued the article.

Rostick tells the story of how he met Lapid at the school. “He filled the role of father for me,” he says in the article. “He’s a good man who helped me out quietly. He got me help with studying, because of my dyslexia, and introduced me to the world of martial arts… later on he helped me with the draft process,” said Rostick.

Because of his criminal record, the IDF decided not to draft Rostick, who then moved to Jerusalem and began to work in security, first in nightclubs, and then for the Coca-Cola company. Five years ago, Rostick decided to attempt to enlist in the IDF again, and after a series of letters sent back and forth to the army, he was drafted into a combat unit.