Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just another day in The Land

One of the facts of life of living in Israel is that a lot of our neighbours want to get rid of us. Not very hospitable, I know, but there you have it. No need to recap the terrorist history; every knows about pizza places, cafes, buses and hotels being bombed, and the people who have been killed. I learn at a womens' seminary, Nishmat, in Jerusalem in a program named in honor of Alisa Flatow, a victim of one such attack.

As a result, Israelis have to live with lots of security. Everytime you go into a mall, you show your bags for inspection and go through a metal detector. If you park in a public garage, keep your trunk unlocked for security to check. Nearly every restaurant in Jerusalem has a guard you have to get by. When you go into the train or bus station, your bags will go through an x-ray machine and you will go through yet another metal detector. Just to get into the airport complex, never mind the actual building, you have to go through security. Even when you drop your child off at nursery school, you will pass and say good morning to the armed security guard standing outside his or her booth.


We learn to live with it; we learn to accept seeing armed guards protecting us while we shop for milk and eggs.

Still, it gets our attention when, while driving to one our local shopping centres to go to lunch with Morey's visiting mother on her last day here, we get waved away from the main entrance. Idle curiousity makes us wonder why there are more-armed-than-usual police officers in the street, while we sit in the restaurant watching, speculating on what's going on. We guess that it's a חפץ חשוד - suspicious object - and we continue to watch as the police block off the road, and the Moked (I don't know how to translate that - they're city staff) arrive. It's all an interesting distraction, until the police come into the restaurant and evacuate us.

Until that point, everything was kind of casual. "Oh neat, they'll bring in the sappers. I want to see the robot." Once you get evacuated, it kind of occurs to you that there's a chance this one might be more than someone's forgotten backpack.

It's interesting to note that we all were quite lackadaisical about clearing out. We did it, but there was no panic, no rush. The people next to us took the time to pay their bill, rather than come back afterwards. Most of us went to the back of the centre and started browsing in the stores there, or made phone calls. But still, everyone who was close enough, watched. It may be a fact of life, but we still want to know for sure.

After two controlled explosions and some gunfire, we were given the all-clear. We went back to the restaurant, got our food, drank our now-cold coffee, and went on with our day as if nothing happened.

Just another day in the Land. For the reasons why we have to blow up every carelessly left-behind suitcase, backpack, cardboard box or package, and why we have to have guards at malls, grocery stores, restaurants and schools, please read this beautiful tribute by Paul Stern.

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