by Rivka Levy
Last Tuesday morning, during Chol Hamoed Pesach, I got in my regular Hyundai i20, (without rock-proof windows or bullet-proof body work) and I drove the regular route down Road 60, through Gush Etzion, straight down to Hevron. The hills were green and gorgeous, the ride was very peaceful (thank God) – and the Cave of the Patriarchs was the most quiet I’ve seen it in ages.
Normally, the town council for Kiryat Arba and Hevron put on a park and ride service, where you park your car in Kiryat Arba, and then take a five minute bus journey to the tomb of the Patriarchs, at the center of Hevron.
Normally, the car parks are full of hundreds of cars, but last Tuesday, Kiryat Arba was effectively a ghost town. Now, in fairness we did set out pretty early for Hevron, and we didn’t stay very long – I left by 10.30am. But I’m always an early bird when I go to visit Hevron, and usually there’s a few other hundred people joining me.
But not this year.
Downtown Jerusalem was also relatively quiet. Last year, the roads near the Old City were so jammed with cars the Police closed them down and re-routed the traffic. This year, despite all the signs warning us about the imminent road closures, they never happened. Why not? Because hardly anyone ‘extra’ showed up this year.
Either they didn’t come to Israel, or if they came, they stayed put in the ‘safe’ areas like downtown Tel Aviv or Modiin.
In some ways, you can’t blame people for this. After all, barely a week goes by without another sensational story about the latest attempted terrorist attack – but if you dig underneath the dramatic headlines, a different story starts to emerge.
For example, if you take a look at the crime figures for February 2016 released by the Metropolitan Police (the police force responsible for enabling the citizens of London and Greater London to sleep ‘safely’ in their beds at night), you find the following scary statistics:
In that one, short month, there were just under 5,000 reported cases of criminal damage and arson; just under 300 people arrested for possessing weapons (including knives and guns); and more than 25,000 (no, that’s not a typo) violent and / or sexual offences committed on London’s streets.
Hmmm. London sounds like a pretty dangerous place, doesn’t it?
How about New York?
Well, the latest stats for NYC show that there were 8 murders in the city in the last week, (and 19 in the last month); 25 shooting victims (involving 22 separate shooting incidents) in the last week, plus 360 violent assaults, and a whole bunch of other nasty things going on.
Hmmm. New York also doesn’t sound like such a bed of roses.
So now, how does ‘dangerous’ Israel compare to London and New York, in the middle of its wave of terror? According to the official statistics from the Israeli government, by March 27, 2016, the picture looked like this:
Since 13 September 2015, 34 people have been killed in terrorist attacks and 382 people (including 4 Palestinians) injured.
There have been 144 stabbing attacks (including 66 attempted attacks), 85 shootings, and 42 vehicular (ramming) attacks.
Let me pause for a moment to say every single person killed, every single person injured, is a terrible, horrible tragedy, and I’m not writing this article to minimize the problem, or the suffering of the people affected, God forbid.
But what I am trying to do is to give some perspective, that even in the middle of this current wave of terror, Israel is still probably the safest place in the world, particularly for Jews.
For example, the one day of Islamic terrorism that recently occurred in Belgium killed and wounded almost as many people as all the terrorist attacks combined in Israel.
The press excels at blowing every incident in Israel up into a massive international catastrophe. Yes, the terrorist attacks are serious, and disturbing, and require a response. But don’t avoid coming to Israel, or going to the Old City, or visiting places like Hevron because you think these places are ‘dangerous’. The streets of New York are much more violent; the suburbs of London are much more dangerous; the terrorist attacks happening abroad are much more lethal.
There are no guarantees that anywhere today is truly ‘safe’. But one thing you can be sure of: God is looking after Israel, and the Jews that live here, and visit here. Sure, there’s risks involved in walking down Ben Yehuda, or visiting the Mearat HaMachpela – but there’s also risks involved in getting on a Belgian Subway, or walking the streets of London and New York.
When God’s out of the picture, the whole world is scary.