Oh Israel, How Crazy Your Are
Growing up in South Africa we always had fire drills, bomb drills, civil defense preparation, etc. at school. We were always taught about the threat of Russian-backed guerrillas and terrorist groups that, according to the Apartheid South African government, were amassing on South Africa’s borders just waiting to invade, including the African National Congress (ANC) – Nelson Mandela’s movement.
We took those drills seriously. In the 80’s the ANC was agitating for change and intensified the armed struggle against the Apartheid regime. We had similar security checks at shopping centers to what Israel has today. Bags were checked and we went through metal detectors. I was at a shopping center once when a bomb threat was received and there was mass panic and rapid evacuation.
Contrast my Israel experience. Exhausted from my long flight with a layover in Turkey I decided that “you only live once”, got Gavin and the kids settled in our Jerusalem apartment we are renting for the summer and hopped on a bus to join my friends in Tel Aviv for the White Night Festival. I was three people away from getting on the very busy Thursday evening bus to Tel Aviv (okay this is Israel so at least 10 people were pushing from all sides, so maybe 13 away) when there was an announcement of a suspicious package and a mandatory evacuation of the terminal. No one moved. No one was willing to lose their place in line even at the risk of losing their life, I guess. It literally took a team over 40 to get people to move to the lower level. I alongside my travelers realized the last person out would be first back in line for the bus. So like them I decided to hedge my bets on the chances of a bomb being slim and that the lines post-evacuation would be even more disastrous. The sociologist in me loved the people-watching. The security guy with a megaphone shouting instructions with his right hand holding the megaphone and stuffing a boreka in his face with his left hand while making announcements with his mouth full. Or the middle-aged lady sitting on the stairs with her suitcase who was literally almost trampled when the all clear was given.
As soon as the all clear was given the race back to the line began. I was again third on line but about twentieth to board when the doors to the bus opened – I just do not have the required Israeli chutzpah. Where else would a petite old woman push in front of a group of soldiers armed with automatic weapons?
I look forward to sharing my summer in Israel and Turkey with you.
Originally published: July 1, 2012
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