Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Danger of Daily Life and Surviving Terror: My Israel Experience Part 3

The Danger of Daily Life and Surviving Terror: My Israel Experience Part 3

I was just reading a post from one of my best friends, npanth, and he spoke of a close call he had falling into icy waters.  This reminded me that I haven’t added the third (and fourth) post of my Israel Experience series, and decided there was no time like the present.  So, here we go:

- - - - -

You know, it’s interesting that most people I talk to think Israel is incredibly dangerous, and yet, I don’t think of it that way.  I’m from Philadelphia, and I’ve lived in some pretty bad sections, as well as spending time in some of the worst sections in pursuit of the finer things in life (women and other amenities). And Philly always seemed much more dangerous.

In Philadelphia, danger can be around any corner. Violence is somewhat random; it just comes at you in the spur of the moment, and often without any reason or cause. Perhaps someone wants what you have, your shoes, your bag, your body, and they decide they’re going to take it.  Or maybe you just look at a person wrong.  But anyway you slice it, violence can come at you quickly and with no real rhyme or reason.

In Israel, it’s a different story. When I got there crime was not in any way a regular part of life, although crime has increased in the country. Still, crime is minimal, it is rare to hear of a mugging, a rape, or a murder, unlike Philadelphia. The only real crime is the terror, and terror takes on a very different face than the random crime of a city like the City of Brotherly Love.

While in Israel, I survived three terrorist attacks, three times where I was within inches or minutes of loosing my life, and yet I always felt safer in Israel than in Philadelphia or some of the other big cities I’ve lived in.

My first brush with terror was on Purim in March of 1997.  I was sitting in a café in Tel Aviv, called the Apropo, reading a book while waiting to meet two friends taking a bus down from my first kibbutz. My friends were late, but the book was good, and the café had great air conditioning, so I was happy where I was.

The book I was reading, From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L. Friedman, mentioned that if you were in Israel he would ask you to look around at the people, and try to tell the difference between the people, basically indicating the similar features between the two people.  Being that I was in Israel, I looked up and around and only then realized my friends were over an hour late.  I asked my waitress for the nearest phone, around the corner, and went to make a call and check on their status.

While on the phone, I was remembering the passage from the book and watching the passer-bys, when a distinctive man passed. He had wild eyes, almost crazy looking, and was over-dressed for the warm Israel weather. Had I been a native Israeli, or even in the country longer, I would have immediately known something was wrong, but as it was I didn’t understand the significance of the man at first.  

Just then a kibbutz member got on and told me my friends had left hours before, and hung up to head towards our meeting place, the café.  Just as I turned the corner, I was knocked back by a rush of air, more forceful than anything I felt before, accompanied by the loud bang and a flash of light.  I went horizontal before landing on my back. A nail flying from the bomb ripped through my t-shirt, doing nothing more than scratching my belly; if I hadn’t been knocked over, it would have went into my gut.

Whether I was in the café or hadn’t been knocked over, to me it doesn’t get much closer than that. But the statistics are on your side in Israel. During the seven years I lived in Israel during this last stint, less people were killed by terror than by car accidents.  11 of 12 terrorist attacks were prevented, predominantly because all Israelis look for things that are out of the ordinary, and become the best defense against these attacks.  And Israelis know the types of places that are targets of terror, and can avoid them.

Generally speaking, I think of Israel as far safer than Philly or the other big cities I’ve lived in.  People know what they’re facing and how to avoid it. Terror acts are fewer and farther between.  And far fewer people have died at the hands of terrorists in Israel in the past 10 years than have died from violent crime in Philly.  Sure, I’ve come close to being killed in Israel, multiple times, but all things considered, I think Israel is far safer than big cities in the US.

technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Posted by Scottage at 2:08 AM / | |