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Tit for tat: the American version

But is it safe?

or…

There have been incidents lately. Please be careful!

or…

Are you sure you want to go there now?

These are the sorts of comments I’ve received each time I’ve gone to Israel. The fact is that “incidents” do sometimes happen in Israel. Lately, it’s been a few stabbings on the streets, and stones thrown at cars passing on a particular highway between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

A street in Yemin Moshe, a neighborhood just outside the old walls of Jerusalem

A street in Yemin Moshe, a neighborhood just outside the old walls of Jerusalem

When I wrote this post last Saturday, I was sitting in my cousin’s living room in Jerusalem, early in the morning while everyone was still sleeping. I could hear the Shabbat (Sabbath) singing from the nearby synagogue.

The last time I visited, two years ago, I wrote about the tit for tat war that was going on at the time. Hamas fired rockets at Israel, and Israel responded with even more rockets. Hamas retaliated by firing more rockets. And so on. Tit for tat. I wrote about how much the two sides resembled toddlers in a sandbox, each blaming the other: “He started it!” “No, he started it!”

Yet, for the most part, life went on as usual.

A fountain just below the old walled city of Jerusalem offers relief from the summer heat.

A fountain just below the old walled city of Jerusalem offers relief from the summer heat.

Now, hearing the news coming out of the US, it all seems so ironic. First, I read a series of Facebook posts in which my friends who are African-American shared their despair yet again at black men being murdered by policemen. My white friends expressed their sadness and sympathy for the victims’ families.

Then, an African-American man in a different American city apparently felt such rage at this repeated pattern of violence against black men that he murdered five policemen and injured several more. Social media overflowed with expressions of sympathy and support for the victims’ families and policemen in general.

Protests and marches are taking place in cities all over the country. People are expressing their anger. The police make arrests. “Black Lives Matter” competes with “We support our police.” (As if they are mutually exclusive: as if it’s impossible to agree with both statements).

What happens next? Will policemen continue to murder black men for minor infractions? Will more black men retaliate with violence against policemen? Will both “sides” blame the other for starting the conflict? It seems likely, given the way things tend to snowball, doesn’t it?

Tit for tat.

Add this conflict to the generally high level of gun violence in the US, and it feels, suddenly, safer to be in Israel than in the US.

10 Comments

  • Rebecca Hall (Bex)

    July 18, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Excellent post Rachel. I often get comments on my blog from Americans emailing me if it’s safe to come to Greece – and it saddens me as I feel that Greece is getting such bad press.
    It is up to us internationally minded bloggers to write about the countries we visit in a truthful way – and you’ve done this in this post about Israel (I love the bourgainvillia in that alleyway – it’s beautiful!)

    Also, it’s like me feeling I have to cancel my holiday to the U.S. in case I am shot at. Maybe you should phrase it to people like that, the next time you’re asked ‘Is it safe’

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 18, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      Yes, that’s a good way to respond. Actually, I’ve heard people in the Netherlands talking about how they’d like to travel to the US, and the idea gets dismissed with “Yeah, but it’s not safe in the US: too many guns, so maybe not.”

      Reply
  • Anita @ No Particular Place To Go

    July 19, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    We’ve often been asked (especially when we were traveling through Mexico, Central and South America) if we weren’t worried about our safety … I guess it’s all a matter of perspective. And I would have laughed out loud (if it weren’t so sad) when I read about the recent travel warnings issued by three countries (the Bahamas, Bahrain and the UAE) as well as the UK caution to their LGBT community about dangers when traveling to the US. Tit for Tat indeed!

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 20, 2016 at 7:40 am

      Me neither. I’ve heard people are cancelling trips to France (not even just Nice) out of fear. It seems to me that more of us should go to France just to show that we won’t be terrorized away.

      Reply
  • Irene S. Levine

    July 21, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    America has too many guns!

    Yes, violence is often random but it was so nice that you could be with a relative in Israel—it offers an extra dose of reassurance and makes a foreign-to-you place feel a lot less scary.

    Reply

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