Where is it Dangerous? Where is it safe? It’s all about perspective.
“Isn’t it scary living in America?”
“Are you not afraid of getting shot from those crazy people who have guns?”
At the time I was asked this question, I was on a chartered tour bus.
It was the summer of 1989. I spent part of that summer picking mangoes and tending the banana fields in a Northern Israeli kibbutz.
1989 was the year the first Arab uprising, or intifada, raged in the West Bank and the Gaza strip. A few weeks before my arrival in Israel, Arab terrorists ambushed a Jerusalem-bound tour bus off a winding mountain road. Fourteen tourists were killed.
That’s the kind of Israeli news that reaches American media. Still, at 19, I ventured off for my adventure in Israel. Alone.
1989 was also the year of a horrific schoolyard shooting in Stockton, California.
That’s the kind of American news that reaches Israeli media.
My questioner was a young Israeli man, around my age at the time, 19 or 20, who was serving in the Israeli army. There were many Israelis like him on our day trip to the Ein Gedi Oasis near the Dead Sea.
He was part of a unit called the Garin Tzabar. The Garin Tzabar spend part of their two (for girls) or three (for boys) year service to the country in military duty, and part of their service helping out Israel’s kibbutz economy.
I can’t remember if, in the fields, or on that trip to Ein Gedi, my soldier co-volunteers carried guns with them. But if they did, the sight of a young man or woman with an assault rifle slung across their back would seem perfectly natural.
Nearly 25 years later, now after the horrific shooting in Newtown, Conn., I can’t get this question out of my head:
Is it scary living in America?
Yes. Yes, I guess it is.
This question, of where is safe, or will I be safe, surely crossed the minds of several families in my community who will be traveling to Israel for the first time this December.
Just one month ago, as Israel faced another barrage of missile attacks from Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense, these families were considering cancelling their trip. Because, in the mind of the typical American, a trip to Israel may not be safe.
Is it ironic that it was in Israel where I felt the most safe? Because there were soldiers, highly trained soldiers who went through strict psychological checks before they were trained on how to use a weapon, ever-present everywhere?
I felt safe in Israel when my bag was checked before I entered a supermarket.
I felt safe in my four trips to Israel when my bag was checked and x-rayed before entering a school where I visited.
Do I feel safe in America with our 2nd Amendment twisted to such a way that one can buy as much weapons and arsenal as they want at a West Virginia Gun show and buy bullets online?
The day of the Newtown shooting, before I had any knowledge of it, I went to pick my nine-year old up at school after a half-day dismissal.
Innocently thinking I had reached the office entrance to pick up some more bus passes, I entered the school through the wrong door.
I walked through the hallways full of children zipping up jackets and lugging backpacks.
No one stopped me.
Yesterday, when I went to pick up my son from school, there were big red signs slapped onto the doors of the school.
THIS DOOR WILL NOT OPEN UNTIL 3:10.
NO ONE ALLOWED ENTRANCE PRIOR TO 3:10.
IF YOU NEED TO PICK YOUR CHILD UP EARLIER,
GO TO MAIN ENTRANCE.
Promptly at 3:10, a slight woman, with a weary look on her face that showed how much the Newtown shooting had hit home, came to open the door for the waiting parents.
Did this sign make me feel safer?
Did this woman, no taller than 5’2″, opening the door to this now-secure school make me feel any safer?
Where is it safe? It’s all about perspective.