The Truth About the S-Word in Israel
JNS.org – “I’m sure you get this question a lot, but….”
It always starts with those words. What follows is the predictable, frequently asked question on the minds of friends, family, and Jewish mothers when I get back to the U.S.
“Is it safe?”
“Do you feel safe?”
“So, how’s the security in Israel?”
It’s not that I blame people for asking. I’m sure that I asked my Israeli friends the same question before some of my trips to Israel. But every time I get asked this question (which is usually a knee-jerk reaction to telling people I live in Israel), I can’t help but chuckle to myself. I chuckle not because it’s a silly question, but because safety (or lack thereof) is so clearly the first thing people associate with Israel, and so clearly not my first association. I also chuckle because it reminds me of the crude yet ingenious condom giveaways at pro-Israel events that say “Israel: It’s Safe to Come.”
I expect their questions to be about eating salad for breakfast, about the crazy-hot weather, about the friends I’ve made from nearly ever continent, my job, progress in learning Hebrew, cultural differences, or the Israeli people. But it’s usually about security. So I’d like to answer this question once and for all for my curious compadres.
I often start my answer with a simple “Yes. I do think Israel is safe, I feel safe, and safety is top-priority in Israel.”
And then, of course, come the explanations, which may include the following:
– I can count the number of times I was scared on one finger.
– Different areas of Israel come with different safety concerns. In the south, it’s rockets. In Tel Aviv, non-terrorism related violence. In Jerusalem, it’s not being run over by Bibi’s motorcade on the way home from work.
– If you are going to be scared anywhere in Israel, be scared in a car! There are more car-related deaths than war-related deaths in Israel’s history.
– If it bleeds, it leads. The media totally exaggerate the danger in Israel.
– From a statistical point of view, you’re more likely to be hurt driving to JFK Airport from New York City than during a three-week stay in Israel.
– Just like in any city, you have to know where it is safe to go and where you should not go alone.
– I feel safer walking alone in downtown Jerusalem than I do in downtown Seattle.
– Having guns around you all the time in Israel actually make you feel safer because you know exactly what they are for. Nearly everywhere else, they seem excessive, unpredictable, and scary.
Honestly, you’re more likely to choke on a carrot dipped in hummus than be involved in a terrorist attack in Israel. And no, that has never happened to me…the carrot was dipped in tahini.
But in all seriousness, there is an element of risk in everything, including living in Jerusalem. Heck, there’s even risk living in a padded cell—just ask The Lonely Island and their YOLO music video. But I, along with most Israelis, don’t see risk as any reason not to be in Israel, not to travel there for vacation, or to do anything except live life to the fullest, spending our lives in the place that calls to us. After all, if we made all of our decisions based on risk, we probably would be pretty boring and miserable. And the Israeli people are a lot of things, but boring and miserable, we are not.
Eliana Rudee is a fellow with the Haym Salomon Center and the author of the “Aliyah Annotated” column for JNS.org. She is a graduate of Scripps College, where she studied international relations and Jewish studies. Her bylines have been featured in USA Today, Forbes, and The Hill. Follow her column on JNS.org.