In Shushan Barbie's Tire Tracks, Israel's Bête Noir

A known criminal from Netanya's seedy underworld barreled his way around the law through fear and intimidation, only to later barrel down three innocent women and then flee the scene of the crime.

Shushan Barbie couldn't have done what he did if it hadn't been for the Mount Carmel forest fire in 2010.

Well, maybe he could have, but there is a striking similarity between Barbie's decision to run away after plowing down three women in Netanya in a drunken, drugged-out rampage, and the decision by Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz to completely ignore the personal responsibility attributed to them by the State Comptroller for the colossal fire that took the lives of 44 people two years ago.

After all, in a country where government ministers duck responsibility, why should a known felon with a penchant for drugs and alcohol not feel morally justified in running over three women and then leaving them to founder in a pool of their own blood?

Shushan Barbie had been on a collision course toward the bodies of Svetlana Yegodayev, her daughter Shoshana and their relative Alexandra Rubinov for his entire life. He is 35, and ever since his youth in the notoriously crime-ridden city of Netanya, he has been a felon.

Ten years ago, after serving some prison time for several offenses, Barbie decided to start a watermelon stand in front of a hotel in the seaside city. He didn't have a license. When city hall inspectors came around, he fought them, demanding to be given a retroactive license.

When that didn't work, he decided to crash a city council meeting. He came in raging, hurling threats at Mayor Miriam Feirberg. A few months later, through no sort of a coincidence, he was granted a plot of public land and it was there that he resurrected his watermelon stand.

But Barbie didn't play it straight for long. Soon enough, he illegally made his watermelon stand into a mini-market, and then morphed it into a shwarma place, serving meat sandwiches. He then expanded further, usurping even more public space against the law.

And in 2010, mind you, he was convicted for reckless driving. Oops.

The writing was more than on the wall: it was in neon colors.

Barbie's illicit pocket of commercialism, which he kept operating through use of force, is but 200 meters from the spot where he would kill three women and then drive off into the night.

Barbie is a married man. His wife Nitza, perhaps best known in these parts for her breasts, which are on display in a vacation photograph circulating through the major newspapers, is herself known to tread beyond the straight and narrow. She is said to have tried to cheat the National Insurance Institute, claiming she was owed funds as a single mother suffering abuse by her spouse, when in fact she was unmarried and engaged to Barbie.

Barbie has served time for violent offenses before. This time around, it is said, he fled because he didn't dare risk a return to the cell. And who helped him decide to run from the scene of the crime? None other than his lady love.

Barbie has a friend. Well, at least he had a friend. Well, maybe not a friend as much as a fall guy.

Following the accident, Barbie drove straight to the home of one Yohai Glixman, a 26-year-old man known in Netanya's criminal underworld as a monkey: a crook willing to take the fall for a fellow criminal in order to boost his own status of iniquity.
Barbie drove to Glixman's house, shouted his name and convinced the guy to turn himself in. Glixman, ever cooperative, then went to the police and said it was he who had been at the wheel of the car that night. He later had second thoughts and recanted his testimony.

A three-day manhunt for Shushan ensued. It ended in a warehouse, where Shushan was found holed up, planning to leave the country.

Barbie has another friend. Well, maybe he has another friend. Investigators are now checking the possibility of someone else being in the car with him that day.

Obviously, Barbie himself does not admit this. He is still claiming he had nothing to do with the accident in the first place. So why did he run away? Because, he says, he was scared of the victims' families seeking revenge.

The tale of Shushan Barbie is more than just a story. It is a symbol for so many other things. The events surrounding the accident and his subsequent arrest offer proof as to why Israelis are so weak and fearful in the face of growing internal violence. Take the surrender of Mayor Miriam Feirberg. After Barbie proved he had no qualms about taking what he wanted by force, she simply handed it to him in hopes it would keep him quiet.

Barbie stands hollering in the midst of a great hole in Israeli society, a hole that was once filled by a feeling of solidarity, of brother and brother working together. Most of all, perhaps, Barbie is a symbol of grim state of the term "accountability" in Israel today. That term doesn't even have a proper Hebrew translation, and no wonder: In a country where literally no one is willing to accept responsibility – not for their decisions, and not for their neglect – why should they accept responsibility for their crimes?

Barbie has a baby girl. Two days after his arrest, his wife gave birth to their third daughter. He will probably only get to see her from behind bars. That's probably a good thing, though, because in the country she will grow up in, hopefully, there will someday be no place for people like her dad.