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July 26, 1991 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-26

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Trying To Explain
Why Israel Feels Safe




My 10 year-old
son was more
than reluctant to
visit Israel with
us earlier this
month. Televi-
sion images of
the Gulf war and
Arab terrorism were fresh in
his mind.
But half way through our
10-day trip, having spent
time in Jerusalem, Haifa
and the Galilee, Dov an-
nounced that he may move
to Israel some day.
I was pleased with his
positive feelings and
wondered whether to tell
him how close we came to
experiencing the dangerous
side of Israeli life.
Last Monday afternoon,
driving south from Haifa, we
stopped in Netanya for lun-
ch. After all, how often does
one have the opportunity to
dine at a Shomer Shabbat,
strictly kosher Pizza Hut?
After lunch, we strolled
along the beautiful beach
area and the town pro-
menade, commenting on
how pleasant and relaxed
the setting was.
It was not until the next
morning that I read the
front-page headlines of an
Arab man's axe-wielding at-
tack in Netanya, which
critically injured a 65-year-
old woman and wounded two
men who sought to subdue
the attacker. The incident
took place where we had
strolled, less than 15
minutes after we continued
our drive south.
My immediate concern:
should I tell Dov what
If we had been in the
United States, chances are
we would have never known
of the attack, just another
incident of Arab-Israeli
hostility. Yet there are
reports every day in the
Israeli press concerning such
attacks or infiltrations of the
borders with Lebanon or
And with it all, as mad-
deningly illogical as this
might sound, one feels a
greater sense of safety in an
Israeli city than in an
American one.
If there is a point to be
made, it is that the
equilibrium of Israeli life is
so finely tuned.
You are never more than a
moment away from
epiphanies of Jewish spiri-

tuality — or the seething
hatred of Mideast confronta-
The reminders are cons-
tant: an idyllic scene of Jews
praying at the Western
Wall, until one notices the
sentries posted atop the
wall, and the increased
presence of soldiers in the
Hundreds of people at a
bustling Jerusalem street
fair shudder, but only
momentarily, at the sound of
an explosion. It is either the

The same
youngsters who
are conditioned to
being carpooled by
adults in America
are free to roam the
streets of Israeli .

sonic boom from an Israeli
jet, we are told, or the police
bomb squad destroying a
package left unattended.
Talk of another round of
war with Iraq, and the pos-
sibility of more Scud attacks
from Saddam Hussein,
evoke anger more than fear.
War is bad for business,
Israelis explain, and those
gas masks are a royal pain.
Most difficult to explain to
one who has not been to
Israel is the sense of well-
being that transcends
security while walking down
a street in a Jewish city
there. Perhaps it is a spirit of
amcha, or Jewish
peoplehood, the unique
realization that at the core,
these strangers all around
me are my brethren, and
that I have more in common
with them in outlook and
fate than with my non-
Jewish neighbors back in
A case in point: arriving in
a coastal city, I ask a middle-
aged man wearing a kippah
where I might find a kosher
restaurant. Rather than at-
tempt to give me com-
plicated directions, he tells
me to follow him, leads our
car to the spot and waits un-
til we have negotiated a
legal parking spot.
Ironically, this sense of
safety is felt most profoundly
by children. The same
youngsters who are condi-
tioned to being carpooled by
adults in America, who are
held captive by parental fear
in big cities, are free to roam
the streets of Israeli cities, to
take a bus with other
youngsters, even after dark.

This liberating in-
dependence is as pervasive
as it is difficult to explain.
It's just a way of life in
And yet the underside of
the Arab-Israeli equation is
ever present. One plans
one's driving trips according
to the safest, rather than the
most direct, route. And the
intermingling between
Arabs and Jews, particular-
ly in Jerusalem, is increas-
ingly less evident.
Throughout Israel, the
contrasts are sharp.
Small as it is, the country
has an energy and vitality in
its city life that is unmatch-
ed in much larger American
cities. Citizens are well-read,
opinionated and outspoken
about politics, but seem
fatalistically indifferent to
the latest machinations of
their nation's leaders.
Everywhere there is a sense
of history about the tremen-
dous influx of Soviet and E-
thiopian Jews, yet people go
about their daily chores as
For all the signs in Rus-
sian, the young hotel
bellhops named Vladimir,
and reports of overcrowded
apartments, the average
Israeli responds to the huge
aliyah with characteristic
ambivalence: it's creating a

The city of Jerusalem.

terrible mess now, but in the
end, everything will be good.
Can one say the same
about Israel?
There is a sense that the
world does not understand
Israel's predicament, or
worse, does understand and
doesn't care. Even America
is pressuring Israel to make
sacrifices in dealing with the
Arab world, which infuriates
a nation that has not known

a day of peace. And with it
all, there is confidence that
somehow, Israel will survive
and flourish.
My son, Dov, says that,
having been to Israel, he's
less afraid now —even after
being informed of the
Netanya violence. "Bad
things can happen
anywhere," he said, "but
Israel makes you feel good."
I heartily concur. ❑

A Case Of Summertime Blues


Managing Editor


ey, you over there.
Help me with this
volleyball net, okay?
Can you believe how
quickly this summer is go-
The first seven months of
this year have gone by in a
blur. And don't even talk to
me about the lunar calendar
with the High Holidays just
weeks away.
The pop and the beer are in
the ice chest.
It's hard sometimes to
believe that we're even able
to enjoy this summer based
on the way the year started
for all of us. Weren't we just
glued to our television sets
watching the Persian Gulf
war unfold? The eerie feel-
ing of Israel's vulnerability
after the Scud attacks on Tel
Aviv is still with us.
Speaking of taste, let's get
this grill fired up over here.
This was a year when the
State Department advised
Americans against travel to

Israel, forcing the Jewish
Federation to cancel its mis-
sion there. This was also the
year when 3,500 of us rallied
to the call of the Jewish
Community Council and
Federation to show support
for Israel and the allied co-
alition. Remember how
angry and committed we all

Remember how
angry and
committed we
were? Pass the
barbecue sauce.

Barbecue sauce? No prob-
lem. I love the sound of that
Then for seven months we
were in a recession, and now
we're out of one. Still, every-
one is being cautious, in-
cluding the organized Jew-
ish community, choosing to
carefully budget itself. Sinai
Hospital, meanwhile, is clos-
ing one day, merging the
next and then being taken
over by physicians after

that. Federation is taking
over the finances of the
Home for Aged after mill-
ions of dollars of over expen-
Potato salad? Over there
on the picnic table.
Justice Marshall an-
nounces his resignation.
And now we have to concern
ourselves whether the
leading candidate for the
Supreme Court is too right
wing, a marijuana smoker
and a Farrakhan supporter.
Beth Achim might move to
West Bloomfield. The Fed-
eration is leaving Detroit for
Bloomfield Township. And
who knows where the Tigers
might go. The House
Majority Whip has some
questionable leanings away
from Israel. There are now
15,000 new Ethiopian olim
in another miracle exodus to
Israel. And the Soviets keep
on coming.
Ice? What do you mean
we're running out of ice?
Now, Syria's leadership
sends our president a letter
Continued on Page 10



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