How Israel put its most notorious bank robber on a stamp
'Ofnobank' robbed 21 banks, keeping his identity a secret even as his acts made him Israel's biggest celebrity.
When I was a boy, before girls got interesting and video games got good and the internet became my main source of information, I collected stamps. There was much about collecting that I loved. The equipment, for example. But above all, I loved collecting stamps because of the great men and women whose portraits they so often featured.
Sitting on the shaggy rug in our living room, my leather-bound album on my knees, I felt as if I was gazing at a pantheon of history's greatest leaders, all in fantastic outfits and each with a story to tell. After I stopped collecting stamps, I often found myself comforted by thinking about them, and about how they represented a corner of our civic society that was incorruptible. They may put just about anyone on television or on the radio, I told myself, but they won't put just anyone on a stamp. I firmly believed that, and it gave me some measure of hope.
Until a few weeks ago, when my father called. Twenty years ago, when he was thirty-five, my father decided to go into business for himself. On several mornings over a period of two years, he would wake up, drink his coffee, say his goodbyes to me and my mother, grab his briefcase, and hop on his motorcycle. Then he'd ride to towns all over Israel and rob banks. He robbed twenty-one of them, keeping his identity a secret even as his acts made him Israel's biggest celebrity, earning him the nickname Ofnobank - which, loosely translated, means the motorcycle bandit. (He wore his motorcycle helmet during each robbery.)
Nothing I had ever gone through prepared me for what my father had to say when he called. Celebrating Israel's 60th year of independence, the Israeli Postal Service issued a special series of stamps commemorating the nation's most luminous sons and daughters. There were stamps for popular singers like Rita and Arik Einstein. There were stamps for "sixty years of the army," one for each of the major brigades of the Israel Defense Forces. There were stamps commemorating David Ben Gurion and Yitzhak Rabin and Menachem Begin. And one commemorating my dad.
An email from my father arrived a few minutes later. A picture was attached. There it was, the stamp: a cheerful little thing, with a cartoonish drawing of a man on a motorcycle leaving a bank in haste and a legend that read "The Motorcycle Bandit: 60 Years of Crime." It was priced at three shekels and twenty agorot (about a dollar).