Yehuda Levi and Dana Ivgy as Ofer and Eti in Embezzlement, aka Me'ila

Embezzlement (Me’ila on IMDB) on the Topic channel is an Israeli series based on a stunning true story of a woman stealing 250 million shekels (approx. $100 million) from the bank where she works, in order to repeatedly bail out her gambling addict brother. So many questions! “How did she get away with it for so long?” She was in a position of power, and her bosses and clients trusted her implicitly. “Why would she KEEP bailing him out?” Family dynamics. Very toxic family dynamics. Embezzlement is the kind of jaw-dropping series that is like watching a train wreck in slow motion. At 7 episodes, it’s about 2 episodes too long, but still gripping. Do yourself a favor and don’t google it until you are finished with the series.

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Eti Alon (Dana Ivgy) is a wife, mother and highly regarded banker. When the series opens, she is up for a promotion to a management position in the investment banking division of her bank. She and her husband, Shlomi (Hanan Savyon), are about to put a down payment on a new apartment. There’s just one problem. Her brother, Ofer (Yehuda Levi), has a serious gambling debt. He begs her for 2 million shekels ($500,000) to save him from certain death. She balks. But then at a family dinner, her father (Dover Koshashvili) takes her aside and tells her that she needs to save her brother. “Family is most important. Now is not the time to get a new house. Not when your brother is in trouble.” So, she gives Ofer the 200,000 shekel down payment on her new house, without telling Shlomi. When Ofer shows up at her work, threatening suicide unless she gets him the other 1.8 million, Eti decides to borrow it from a rich client, with the intention of paying it back before anyone is the wiser.

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If you know anything about gambling addicts, then you know that they always assume they will win back their losses. You also know that if they get bailed out, they will go right back to gambling. This is what happens in Embezzlement. You would think that Eti would get fed up and quit helping, but she and Ofer have an uncomfortably close relationship. It’s not sexual, but it’s very intimate. They tell each other everything. Ofer refers to Eti as, “my angel, my love, the one I love most,” even though he’s married with kids. In addition, their dad, Avigdor, is a bully and a chauvinist. He berates Eti for having a career instead of being a stay-at-home mother, yet at the same time twists her arm to use the bank to save her brother. For his part, Ofer knows how to alternately charm and manipulate Eti with threats of suicide. One character tells Ofer he is “a cunning madman who thinks he’s getting away with something, but everyone sees who he really is.” It’s an apt description.

Our Take on Embezzlement

I almost stopped watching Embezzlement in episode 2 because Ofer is so odious. But I couldn’t tear myself away. Eti is a likable character, despite her crimes. The stress she withstands would give most people a heart attack, such as a gangster coming to the bank to demand money at the same time that an auditor is sitting in the next room, waiting to go over Eti’s accounts. It’s easy to see her as a victim, but late in the series, when she and Ofer are sharing a cigarette and a fast food burger at a gas station, you realize she is exactly where she wants to be: beside her beloved older brother. If you didn’t know this was a true story, you would say, “that would never happen!” If you like suspense, and aren’t put off by Ofer’s loathsome personality, then Embezzlement is for you.

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