The Purple Sheet
Shabbat Parshat Chukat– July 15th/16th 2016 – י תמוז תשע’ו
Over the last number of years, Israel has not only had to deal with many physical threats to her existence but also public relations challenges as well. Part of this is the (thankfully) wildly unsuccessful BDS – Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions – movement popular among uncritical thinking college students who have yet to face the real world in their safe-space kindergarten. I say wildly unsuccessful because according to all studies, it has created negligible results to Israel’s economy. Which is not to say that it is not worth fighting against, but merely to point out that one should not give too much credence to their boogey-man tactics as they attempt to offer an outsized view of themselves.
Many of us are quite familiar with the numerous lies the Palestinians try to foist upon the world about the Jewish nation. They are of course helped along with their enablers – the usual suspects – the UN, the EU (Mazal Tov Britain on the divorce), university professors, much of the press and even empty-headed Uncle Tom Jews like JStreet.
But there is one fiction about Israel that is common even among some very good friends and supporters of her. And that is the notion that Israel in general and Jerusalem in particular are dangerous places to visit. In the minds of many, terror is ever-present and the recent stabbings of innocents has only abetted this notion.
To quote Daddy Pig from the Peppa Pig series, “I happen to be a bit of an expert about these things” and I know a thing or two about the dangers of living in Israel. I lived there from summer of 1979 until I came to Florida in 1988 – in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, alongside the large Arab population there and during the first Intifada. More recently, I have just returned from the JWRP Men’s trip, my wife Karen is there now with 23 Women on her fourth trip, my daughter Tzippy just returned from spending a year studying in Israel and before that Moishe and Atara spent at least a year in Jerusalem as well. Yoni, God willing, will be studying in Yeshiva there next year.
An issue that come up when recruiting for JWRP trips is how safe is it to visit there. Spouses and parents worry greatly when their loved ones go to Israel and even Yoni’s school almost called off their graduating class Israel trip a few months back. During my visit two weeks ago, we had the good fortune of meeting the mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat. Mr. Barkat was born in Jerusalem and was first elected as its mayor in 2008 and was reelected for a second term in 2013. He served in the military as a paratrooper and then went on to become a successful businessman before becoming mayor. He is eloquent, intelligent, clear and confident when he speaks. He pointed out that there is a universal method and statistic to judge how safe a city may or may not be. And that is to see how many murders there are per 100,000 residents.
When you do your homework on this issue, you will find that Caracas, Venezuela is the most dangerous city in the world with 120 murders per 100,000 residents. St. Louis tops the US cities with 59; Detroit has 44. And then on the other end of the spectrum you have London, England with 1.5. And guess where Jerusalem finds itself on this scale? Alongside London with 1.5. So let me ask you, when you hear of someone going to London, do you wish them, “Come back safe”? Do you worry for them?
If you expand your research beyond Mr. Barkat’s presentation and look at the overall crime index of cities worldwide (see this link: http://www.numbeo.com/crime/rankings.jsp) you will find that once again Caracas is the worst of the 277 cities studied with an index of 85.9. Detroit comes in at number 12 with an index of 75.75, Miami at 66 with a score of 57.41, London at 120 with a score of 47.24 and Jerusalem way down at number 236, 24 slots below that war-torn city of Calgary that has a higher crime rate and is listed at number 212.
So as Mr. Barkat related to us, when people regularly wish us a good trip when we visit Israel and “to come back safe”, he turns that greeting on its head and when he knows someone visiting the USA with its much higher murder and crime rate, he wishes for them to return safely from the USA to Israel.
In the tunnels uptown
The Rat’s own dream guns him down
As shots echo down them hallways in the night
No one watches when the ambulance pulls away
Outside the street’s on fire
In a real death waltz
Now it is very clear why people would have this false impression of Israel because whenever any act of violence between Palestinians and Israel occurs, it becomes sensational international news. But almost all of the shootings and stabbings in St. Louis, Detroit, Miami or even Calgary are merely local news that never make it beyond their respective newspapers.
Truth be told, I must admit that when I was leaving Jaffe Gate after Shabbat at nighttime and passing many Arab young men, I did glance over my shoulder to make sure I was not part of some future martyr’s plan to have 72 virgins. But at the same time, whenever I drive I-95, I am also glancing over my shoulder to check my blind spot for drivers zipping into the next lane or drivers distracted by texting as they lane-drift like drunks. So danger lurks wherever you may be. In fact, last year when Tzippy spent the year in Israel and the stabbings were more frequent, people would ask me if I was worried about her. And I always answered the same way, “I am more worried about Yoni driving up and down I-95 to school each day than Tzippy walking the streets of Jerusalem.”
So if safety is your issue and that is what animates much of your life, then it might be time to pick yourself up and move to Jerusalem – a lively and vibrant city where little children walk the streets alone, thousands hang out late into the night at bars and restaurants, where the Light Rail Train zips within inches of people (including me) along Jaffe Road without incident, barriers or lawsuits, and where violence and crime is at one of the lowest rates in the whole world. Not only will you be safe in Jerusalem, but you get all the great spiritual benefits that go along with being at the place that Jewish tradition calls The Gateway to Heaven and where you can touch and feel God’s Presence. If you are not prepared to move there, then go visit. And if you cannot visit but know someone who is, then do me a favour: Don’t tell them to stay safe but rather ask them, when they make their way to the Kotel – The Western Wall – to pray for our safety.