'Imaleh!' Mastering the Fear of Roaches in Tel Aviv

A Tel Aviv woman has finally figured out how to master her fear, assassinate the perpetrator and make money doing it, all at once. And it's legal.

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Hana Levi Julian, | updated: 14:08

A candidate for  bug assassination
A candidate for bug assassination
Israel news photo: (illustration)

Someone has finally figured out how to make capital on one of the most common plagues of urban development: A new company devoted to defending the fairer gender from cockroaches on the prowl has begun to offer its services in Tel Aviv. The company, "Imaleh!" ("Mama!"), is run by a woman, for women, and was "born to kill bugs" on demand, according to company founder, Ya'arah Tzori.

The service works like this: you call the switchboard, report the offending insect, and request a responder to come and assassinate the scary cockroach -- which in Israel often seems to be the size of a small chicken. "Imaleh!" sends out a responder on a scooter to the rescue to deal with the crisis.

But there are some caveats: for a start, the killer component of the service operates only in the middle of the night, for the present. And it will cost you: there is a house call fee, albeit a modest one, and a price per bug assassinated. Removing the corpse is free of charge. Moreover, this is not an exterminator service, and if there are "many" bugs, Tzori will refer you to an exterminator.

Tel Aviv: Cockroach Capital in Summer
Tzori started the firm about a month ago, after she started hearing from people that Tel Aviv has a lot of cockroaches in the summer. "It's kind of like a plague. They are everywhere," she told Israel National News. "There is something about these animals that strikes fear into people."

Hearing so many stories about friends and others, who would discover the ugly insects and make calls to their male friends in the middle of the night to bail them out, made her think. "I would hear about the weird things they do to avoid them," she said. "I know that I am also afraid of them, but I thought I was alone in the world. But then I saw there are many others in the same boat. Some people can't even deal with the presence of a dead cockroach in the shower -- it really interferes with their lives."

'We're Tough Ladies, But...'
Tzori says her company, which sends the troops out on scooters across the city in the dead of night -- "we operate from 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m." -- gives a woman a choice on how to handle her fear. "I am saying, we handle many crises, we are tough ladies, but there are things we are afraid of, and if there are ways to sort it out for a reasonable price without letting the entire world know about it, then why not?" 

Usually the call is for one bug, or some other very specific night scenario, Tzori said. "If it is for extermination, I just refer it out."

She has not gotten any calls about spiders, and surprisingly, Tzori said she is not sure how she would handle that. "I don't kill spiders, but maybe we will release it. I haven't thought about it. Some are poisonous," she explained. Other frightening creatures not to be dealt with include snakes and mice. Tzori said she has received only one call to expel a mouse, and she referred the case to an exterminator.

Method of Execution: Customer's Choice
The customer is allowed to choose the assassination method, according to Tzori, who explained that many of her clients have dogs, "so we can't spray -- we use a shoe instead."

Chuckling, she added, "If we have to, and the customer prefers, we will trap them and let them go. But no one is a peace fighter for roaches, and we haven't gotten any requests for amnesty yet."

Not for Women Only
Every fear is legitimate, Tzori asserted. "When I understood that, and understood that a phobia is not a rational thing, I started thinking in the middle of the night one night, who can I call, what can I do? I am so independent during the day, why do I need to feel so helpless at night?"

But women are not the only ones who are gripped by this fear, she added.

"I don't know what's with this animal. It has really captured people," she said. "Even men call and say, 'I didn't want to tell anyone, but come over quick and kill it.' Because they're supposed to be the men, they don't want to say it. But they don't want to do it, either."

Sometimes men actually give women the company's number to call, Tzori said. "Someone will call us and say their male friend sent them to us rather than do the job himself."

About 10 percent of the calls the service gets at this point are actually from men, she added, even though the firm gears its service to the female market.

More Serious Assistance
The switchboard also provides services for other situations that might be scary for the average single woman -- or for that matter, any woman who is alone.

"Imaleh" responders will come to walk someone through a dark alley, or down a dark street to get to their home, or for that matter, escort them through a dark stairwell if the light is out and they are afraid to go it alone.

There have been a number of such calls, Tzori said, and the demand is growing.

But the bulk of the service is still devoted to the "catch, kill and carry out the cockroach" routine, Tzori said. Although the assassins do their murderous deeds in the dead of night, one can request that a responder come to pick up a dead bug during the day. Usually the offending insect will be removed within an hour or two.

Oddly enough, most of the dead cockroach calls are at Friday noon -- "people are cleaning their apartments before Shabbos, and find these things in all kinds of weird places," Tzori said.