The images of the recent Boston Marathon bombing were hard to watch. Confusion, mayhem, running for cover, tending to the injured. It reminded me of the suicide bombings in Israel of yesteryear. The attacks, mostly carried out by Hamas, reached their peak in 2002. Since then, a 20-foot high concrete wall was erected along the West Bank with multiple checkpoints. It proved to be very effective in thwarting terrorist attacks, as can be seen by the graph above.
You’d think that after a decade of quite, Israel would let down its guard. But you’d be wrong. It’s been almost two years since my return to Israel from the United States, and security is as tough as it ever was.
Only now, I don’t notice it as much. Security is part of life. Much like after 9/11, we all have to remove our shoes and expose our smelly socks at airport security, here, in Israel, we all have to follow the rules.
Security is all around, and around the clock. I encounter it as early as eight in the morning, the time I drop off my daughters at school. I go through an iron gate and stop. An armed guard approaches. “Good Morning,” I say. He leans into the car window, sees my half-asleep girls in the backseat, pulls away from the car, gives me the nod to proceed. In my rear-view mirror I see him return to his booth, a gun in his holster. I don’t give it a moment’s thought. It’s how it is.
There’s a guard at the entrance to the supermarket. He’s carrying a gut. He must be getting free samples from the bakery. In his hands he holds a metal detector wand. He hardly uses it. After years on the job, he’s an expert at profiling. He knows the good guys from the bad. And the market we frequent caters to both Jewish and Arab Israelis. Somehow, using a sixth sense, he knows what he needs to know.
Once I’m done with the groceries, I drop them off at home and my wife and I head to an open-air, large shopping center some 20 minutes from our house. I slow down my car at the checkpoint. Two young guards man the post. I know the routine. I roll the car forward, then stop. I see his familiar hand gesture to pop open the trunk. I follow his instructions. The engine’s still running. I hear a tap on the trunk, my signal that all is clear. I enter. It’s that quick, that simple. Do what they tell you, and you won’t even notice this tiny intrusion into your life.
After shopping for clothes and housewares, we’re hungry. We dine at Joe’s Cafe. The guard measures us for an instant, lets us through. We step up to the hostess and ask for a table in the back. We sip our coffee, dig into our salads and sandwiches.
Once it arrives, I notice that we’ve been charged a “security fee” of 4 shekels ($1.10). The fee is meant to cover the expense of keeping a security guard on the premises. Not all businesses charge a fee. Many have raised a stink about having to “subsidize” the cost of security, but many see it as a necessary evil .
Drink up, your coffee is getting cold.
We get in the car and drive home, walk through our house gate. No guard here.
“What’s for dinner?” my 14-year-old twin girls ask.
It’s a wonderful day in Galilee.
Boston, we love you.
Maurice Labi is an Israeli-American who lived in Los Angeles for many years. In 2011 He returned to Northern Israel (Galilee) with his wife and twin teen-age daughters. He is of two lands, of two cultures and he blogs about his experiences in Israel, particularly from Galilee where Jews and Arabs dwelled for centuries.
He has also written three novels: “Jupiter’s Stone,” “Into the Night,” and “American Moth” — available at Amazon.com or BN.com.