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Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Don’t Blame Our Arab Neighbours For Everything!

Mark.UlyseasThis  article may also be viewed in the online international magazine, Live Encounters. Editor, Mark Ulyseas is an Indian travel writer who supports Israel and all matters Jewish.

Naive, I know. But I was astounded, soon after settling in Karmiel, Northern Israel, to learn of local Jewish kids with drink and drugs problems.

Israeli researchers develop date-rape drug detector

I was also staggered to catch a couple of lads uprooting a sapling outside the library. My Hebrew is woefully  limited but I managed to stop them – if only temporarily – by giving them  the ‘Gorgon eye’.

Then a fellow immigrant described how he disturbed a potential burglar while at home in broad daylight and advised us all to update our security.

Meanwhile I met  a school student whose mother helps ‘children at risk‘ and   a friend  began working as a volunteer art teacher with difficult teenagers. She says it’s a tough class!

Jewish kids? In the Jewish State? Surely not! This can’t be! But I also remembered the prophetic words of founding Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. He said:

"When Israel has prostitutes and thieves, we'll be a state just like any other.”

So I’m sharing the loveliest part of the Galilee with the darker shades and sunnier hues of Israel’s ‘rainbow nation’ and I get hopping mad when only our Arab neighbours are  blamed for anything and everything that goes wrong.

ShorashimThe latest episode at the nearby gated community of Shorashim is such a case but it  didn’t receive much publicity as it was reported during the storm about the Saudi Arabian internet ‘hackers’ who stole  and  then published the details of thousands of Israeli credit cards owners. 

Indeed I learned about the local break-in only by chance, while reading an entry in the  Galilee Diary penned by Rabbi Marc J. Rosenstein, himself a Shorashim resident.

I’m re-posting his piece with slight amendments to allow for easier reading by a mixed audience. Using the title Crime Watch (coincidentally the name of a popular U.K. television crime reconstruction show), he wrote:

On a recent Friday night three homes on Shorashim were burgled - this time in the early evening hours when the residents were out at Sabbath services or having dinner with neighbours. 

“One of the homes, based on past experience, was protected by an alarm and a safe (which was taken).  Such depressing occurrences recur in waves; it seems that every several months there is some activity, people take extra precautions that make them feel a bit more secure, it is quiet for a while, and then - another hit.  The premises are surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, but there are gaps, and if you're motivated, it's not so hard to get over, under, or around it. 

There is a security guard on duty from midnight to 5.00 a.m., manning the entrance gate and patrolling the internal streets periodically.  There is a massive iron gate at the entrance, which can only be opened by a signal from a cell phone that is registered to a resident of the community.  This is often inconvenient, makes some people feel secure and others feel like colonialists - and is, apparently, not all that helpful.  And of course Shorashim is no different from the dozens of other somewhat isolated rural communities scattered around the country.

We are all nostalgic for the good old days, 20 years ago, when we seemed to live a kind of idyllic pastoral life out here in the periphery, bragging to our city friends that we didn't even carry a key to the front door.  What has changed?  Is it just that we are less naïve now?  Or is it that our standard of living has risen, our homes having gotten larger and more stocked with stuff that is tempting to steal?  Or has the degree of economic inequality increased, so that there are more desperate people looking for a way to survive? 

Or is it perhaps that the ineffectuality of the law enforcement system in dealing with this type of crime has made it a worthwhile venture for more people?  Or perhaps organised crime has permeated the local under-class, providing incentives and mechanisms for moving stolen goods?  Or could it be a rise in drug addiction in Arab villages (my highlight- N.I.W.)? All of the above?

For the new residents who left the city seeking that pastoral idyll, this reality is daunting, and they tend to like to see the gate kept closed, and are eager to volunteer for neighbourhood-watch patrols.  And among newbies and veterans alike safes and alarm systems and reinforced doors are popular home improvements. 

Then there are those (I'm not sure if they're the majority or the minority) who sort of ignore the whole thing; they just lock their doors (mostly) and hope for the best.  Maybe they are fatalists, figuring that there is no fool-proof defence in any case; maybe they value their feeling of freedom more than their stuff; maybe they are just naïve/lazy (it won't happen to me).   What seems to be fairly certain is that the problem is not going to go away soon, nor be solved by any particular security measure, nor is anyone, no matter how security-conscious, immune.

More than just a nationalist movement, Zionism has always been rooted in the Jewish messianic tradition, and Jews - both in the state and in the Diaspora - have tended to expect that somehow our state would be different, better, "the first flowering of our redemption."  At the same time, another powerful component of the Zionist vision was "normalization:" Finally, we would be a normal nation, just like everyone else.

Out here in the ‘boonies’ (rural country), at the moment, through the bars on the windows, it looks like normalization has trumped messianism.  But we've only just begun; the question is, where do we go from here?

The answers,  Rabbi Rosenstein, are clear:

  1. Don’t complain about uneven security.
  2. For Heaven’s sake, don’t blame the Arabs for everything.

These measures could stop a profound cynic and TV Crime Watch devotee  like me suggesting that there may be young people at home feeling so trapped ‘in the boonies’  that they are desperate enough to break out by breaking in.


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