Soldiers, trained in urban warfare and fully armed,
regularly patrol the streets of Israel to protect tourists
and the citizens of the country from terrorist attacks.
PHOTO / Nor Grebnief
Four days later one terrorist was dead, another in custody and the residents of Boston and its surrounding communities were breathing a collective sigh of relief. The casualties – four dead, dozens grievously maimed, hundreds injured – only captures a small part of the drama.
Truth to tell, an entire region of the country had been temporarily shut down; an army of law enforcement personnel – hundreds, perhaps thousands of officers and national guardsmen – had been pressed into service and the full weight and resources of the federal government and its intelligence agencies were on full alert.
For a brief moment there was a sense of loss and déjà vu, the fear that we had been down this shattered road before. For a day or two a noxious blend of anxiety and anger hung heavily in the air, fueled by roiling news reports that were often misleading and rumors that were mostly the stuff of paranoid nightmares.
Fortunately, balancing out all this turmoil were the good people of this great land; men and women filled with care, compassion and grit. While the professionals – police and intelligence services; doctors and nurses; yes, even the news media – went about their jobs, the residents of Boston and its suburbs found their footing.
They pushed aside the terror and offered one another aid and comfort. Even as the terrorists went about their grisly work and firefights broke out, even when one community was entirely locked down for a day, the people of Boston showed the country what it means to be strong – Boston Strong!
So the final moments of the ordeal – the flashing lights and sirens, yet another pitched battle between the remaining terrorist and police – felt more like a whimper than a bang. After all, it was clear how this battle would end. The strong people of Boston would prevail.
Now take this mighty effort and frightful ordeal that played out over a few days in Boston and think for a moment how difficult it would be if it happened again and then again and yet again. How would life change? What sort of compromises would be necessary to protect the safety and sanity of our citizens?
Now think about Israel.
Terrorist attacks, sadly, are part of the fabric of the Jewish homeland. The country and its citizens have endured decades of violence; thousands have died, tens of thousands been injured. The stench of smoke and wail of sirens is uncomfortably familiar in the tiny nation.
There have been bombings, focused incidents like the one in Boston, too numerous to detail. There have also been suicide bombings, rocket attacks, shootings, knifings and collisions, even a youngster stoned to death.
In 2011, eight Israelis were killed and more than 40 wounded in a multi-pronged terrorist attack north of Eilat in southern Israel. Earlier that year, a man, woman and three of their children were stabbed to death by terrorists in their home in Itamar, a village in the northern corner of the West Bank.
Two years earlier, in 2009, a teen was murdered by an axe-wielding terrorist in a small community outside of Hebron and a year earlier, in Jerusalem, three women were killed and another 50 people injured when a man driving a bulldozer plowed into cars and pedestrians on Jaffa Road between the Central Bus Station and the Jewish Market.
In 2001, three months before 9/11, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a discotheque, the Dolphinarium, in Tel Aviv. Twenty-one teenagers were killed and another 132 injured.
There were dozens of other attacks before and after these incidents. The good news is that in recent years there’s been a significant decrease in the number of such actions. Public safety and security, however, come at a price.
You’ll be frisked and your bags checked in Israel before entering most shopping malls or government buildings, museums, ballparks or bus stations, movie theaters, bars or cafés. Troops patrol the streets, armed checkpoints dot the borders and an expansive wall separates much of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Remarkably, Israelis go about their lives unfettered by the loss of what some might consider basic freedoms. The guards, soldiers, security checkpoints and weapons have simply become part of the background noise of life, necessary safeguards when living in a dangerous neighborhood. Even tourists, initially overwhelmed by the massive show of force, grow use to the precautions and understand the merit in being prepared.
Last week, Bostonians and their neighbors got it right when they pushed aside their fear and took a stand, an attitude now labeled by the media and others as being “Boston Strong.” It turns out that the hugely popular rallying cry has been a way of living in Israel for years, an attitude that both protects and celebrates life.