Drunk Driver Convicted for Killing 13-year-old Boy in 2018 in Tel Aviv

'Truth was far from the defendant's mind,' judge says, slamming Eli Bar Zakai's attempts to argue his car slid on the wet pavement, hide the fact he was drunk

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Bar Zakai outside the Tel Aviv District Court, June 11, 2020.
Bar Zakai outside the Tel Aviv District Court, June 11, 2020.Credit: Meged Gozani
Bar Peleg
Bar Peleg

A man who plowed his car into two teenage boys who were standing on a traffic island in Tel Aviv on a summer night two years ago, killing one and seriously injuring the other, was convicted Thursday of homicide with reckless indifference and additional offenses.

Eylon Shalev-Amsalem, 13, was waiting to cross a road with a friend when a car driven by Eli Bar Zakai jumped the curb and hit them. Amsalem died shortly after being admitted to a hospital emergency room. His friend suffered multiple injuries.

Judge Benny Sagi of the Tel Aviv District Court ruled that Bar Zakai had adopted a criminal pattern of behavior. In addition to homicide, he was convicted of causing grievous bodily harm, driving under the influence and obstruction of justice.

The scene of the accident, Tel Aviv, 2018.Credit: Magen David Adom

“Truth was far from the defendant’s mind,” Sagi said in pronouncing his verdict, rejecting Bar Zakai’s claim that his car had slid due to water on the road.

The judge had tears in his eyes when he read out the verdict. He said that Shalev-Amsalem had done everything required of a pedestrian while waiting for a green light.

“His life was cut short in the most tragic way imaginable. It was snuffed out only because the defendant decided that he had to drink and have a good time, decided to get in a car and drive recklessly, as if reaching a club sooner was a vital need. In one stroke he left a family bereft, wounded without relief, with another child injured, with the picture of his dead friend probably embedded in his mind forever,” Sagi said.

Eylon’s father, Kobi Shalev-Amsalem, said after the verdict was read that the court had ruled clearly that the lives of people on the roads were not disposable and that a driving license is not a license to kill. “No punishment will bring back our son but that’s no reason not to fight fiercely against such acts.” Eylon’s mother, Dikla, said Bar Zakai did not make a mistake; “this was a homicide.”

The prosecutor in the case, Erez Richtenberg, said the court accepted the state’s argument that Bar Zakai had been reckless, getting behind the wheel despite being warned by friends after telling them he had drunk a whole bottle of vodka. After the accident, Bar Zakai phoned a friend, saying he was drunk and needed water. “Someone’s dying, come quickly” he said. To foil a breathalyzer test he drank a large quantity of water, given to him by a municipal inspector. He raised suspicions by asking for more water.

Bar Zakai later asked the friend to say they had not been drinking. His attempts to erase calls from his phone led to the obstruction of justice charge. Bar Zakai failed four blood-alcohol-level tests administered by the police. He also claimed that the accident was caused when his car hydroplaned due to water on the road from a ruptured pipe, but there was no record of this.

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