The title refers to a conversation that a lot of us are having. Is it better to be surrounded by armed police, the military and trained civilians.. or is it better not to see those people around you day after day? A friend is in favor of the latter (she just feels safer not having that stuff in her face) but I am very relaxed in Israel because of the presence of so many trained eyes – and protective weapons.
Contrast and compare:
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) announced Monday that it has arrested a Hamas cell in the West Bank city of Hebron which planned numerous terror attacks against Israeli targets, including a suicide bombing.
The Shin Bet, in conjunction with the IDF, arrested the eleven operatives in January. The central suspects in the terrorist activity are Sahaib Mamun Saltan, 20, from Hebron, and his cousin Salam Abbas Saltan, 28, a Hamas military operative who in recent years served a term in Israeli prison and was, on another occasion, held in administrative detention. During the arrests, explosive devices and weapons allegedly meant to be use in the terror attacks were confiscated.
According to the Shin Bet, the two admitted during interrogation to attempting a terror attack in December 2014 in Tel Rumeida in Hebron. The suspects wished to draw IDF soldiers by throwing an explosive device to a point where a powerful explosive was buried and then detonate the explosive against the soldiers. Due to a technical glitch the explosive failed to go off.
The suspects planned a number of different kinds of terror attacks, collecting intelligence on places where Israelis were present in Hebron and Jerusalem in order to carry out attacks against them. A number of the suspects expressed willingness to serve as suicide bombers.
I rounded the corner and started examining the London townhouses, knowing the one I sought would be devoid of markers announcing any Jewish presence. Finally spotting the synagogue, I went to climb the stairs when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw two men in dark coats cross the street and call to me. I knew who they were and what they wanted.
Questions and answers.
“Where are you going?”
“Where are you from?”
I paused, because I’m never really sure of that answer any more. “New York. I work for New York University, I’m visiting.”
“Where do you go to synagogue?”
Again, I faltered. There were too many answers to that question. “Well, I’m originally from Seattle and there I went to Shevet Achim.”
“Who is your rabbi?”
In Seattle? New York? “Well, it’s complicated, but Rabbi Yehuda Sarna.”
“Ok, and do you keep Shabbat?”
“Do you have ID?” Trick question.
“No, but I emailed my passport copy to the shul on Thursday.”
“OK, and is there anything in your pockets?”
Just my hands, I showed them. Convinced, they radioed inside and the doors opened.
Question and answers.
I was late, arriving only in time for kiddush. I stayed for minchah to make up the difference.
Leaving in a light drizzle, I began to cry. The streets of London aren’t like those of New York City, where crying in public is par for the course, almost a right of passage. I clasped one hand over my mouth and the other to my gut, pulling my sorrow back inward.
I tried to name my sorrow as I walked to lunch. I have had to prove my Judaism before, and in ways far more painful. But never had I done so in order to simply enter a shul. Never had shibboleth been needed in order for me to pray in community. The questions were like those asked by El Al security before a flight to Israel.
Exactly. In order to enter or leave Israel, you answer questions and security decides if you are ok or not. But once there, you are protected. In Europe, the dwindling Jewish communities do their best, but every so often a kosher grocery store in shot up (4 dead), a school is attacked (4 dead), you are spat upon on the streets if you wear clothing that indicates your religion, and the rabbis have advised against doing so, but each time there is an antisemitic attack, Europe proclaims its love for its Jewish citizenry. Hatred of Israel, sure, but love of Jews in Copenhagen, London, Paris, Toulouse… I mentioned the some of the deaths, but none of the death threats or the burned synagogues, nor the fact that most Jews are afraid to send their kids to public schools because they will be attacked for their faith.
So I think that Israel is safer. It is much better to know that you are a target than to pretend that you are not.