Police Assistant Commissioner Ephraim Bracha (C).
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
In Ramat Amidar in the ’70s, there was a local kid who was destined to make a name for himself, and do so on the right side of the law. The Ramat Gan neighborhood earned a reputation over the years as an incubator for criminals – notorious gangsters like the Harari brothers, and later, kingpin and household name Amir Mulner.
Despite all temptations, another kid who came before them stayed on the right path and, in the decades to come, Ephraim Bracha would become one of the most respected and talented investigators in the Israel Police. He’d eventually lead the investigation into the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and some of the biggest corruption cases in the nation’s history, as well as police efforts in the ’90s against the Ramat Amidar gang during their bloodsoaked war against the Pardes Katz gang, fearlessly going after local mobsters who knew his family well.
How could it be that a kid from one of central Israel’s toughest neighborhoods, who beat the odds and became an admired and feared police commander, would end his life alone in his car, having shot himself in the heart? Perhaps we’ll never know what exactly led Bracha to take his own life, but in the months before his death he suffered a campaign of harassment by supporters of Rabbi Yoshiyahu Yosef Pinto on social media and in the press, and was defamed in reports in the Israeli media, which portrayed him as a corrupt cop and no less than a danger to the public.
The tragedy seems compounded in a sense because Bracha tried to do the right thing. In August 2012, after he was offered a $200,000 bribe by Pinto, he went on his own volition to his superior, then head of the investigations and intelligence branch Asst.-Ch. Yoav Segalovich, and told him that Pinto – a man he had admired and who had served as a spiritual guide of his for years – had tried to bribe him.
He may not have had much choice – failure to report the attempted bribe would have been a crime as well. Nonetheless, he did so knowing the price he and his family would pay once word got out that he had turned on one of the most powerful people in Israel.
One impression now – too late of course – is that Bracha was left largely on his own. He didn’t have the full support of his colleagues and friends in the police and not enough effort was made by the organization to clear his name. There have been reports since his suicide that at the grand farewell celebration held for outgoing Police Commissioner Insp.- Gen. Yohanan Danino last week, many colleagues kept their distance from Bracha, as though there was a black cloud hanging over his head.
There’s also the question of why the Justice Ministry waited until Sunday night, hours after the suicide, to put out a statement saying that the reports by Yoav Yitzhak of News1 that there was an unpublicized decision by the prosecution to open a full criminal investigation against Bracha were “grossly false.” He may have been on the path to taking his own life regardless, but a clear unequivocal statement like this a week earlier may have made a difference.
If a man like Ephraim Bracha – a guy from Ramat Amidar who spent decades working some of Israel’s toughest investigations – could fall victim to the pressure of being a witness in a highly-publicized case, what hope do the rest of us have? Bracha may have had some undiagnosed emotional or mental problems that we don’t know about, but in hindsight, his story appears to be one of a tough and highly-admired investigator, who was shattered by the harassment and the spotlight, and what it was doing to he and his family.
No matter the reason he took his life, the suicide of Ephraim Bracha is shaping up to be one of the most traumatic and painful blows to the Israel Police in some time, even as the organization has suffered repeated, highly- publicized scandals in the past couple of years. More than a half-a-dozen senior commanders with the rank of assistant chief – the second highest in the organization – have resigned or been fired in less than two years, mainly due to scandals involving sex crimes against female subordinates.
Something about this tragedy should leave a scar that will be far more painful to heal. Whoever the next national commissioner is, they will enter office having to work to examine how Bracha ended up alone in his car with a pistol to his chest Sunday morning, and what it means for the organization.