Saturday, August 29, 2015

Clear Thinking or Hysteria

Maale Adumim is a beautiful city overlooking the Judean Desert on one side, Jerusalem on another. On and between these beautiful vistas are open hills which often become the staging ground for thieves who come into our city. Since January 1, 2015, there have been 26 breakins. Five of these have taken place in my neighborhood in the last 8 months. By comparison, Pisgat Ze'ev, a neighborhood in the northern-most part of Jerusalem was hit 35 times in just one weekend.

Nobody is happy when they are robbed. The feeling of violation and fear that follows in the path of the violation of your home can be catastrophic and can cause long-term issues, sometimes well beyond the initial violation caused by the robbery.

Sadly, what it also may cause, is hysteria, panic, over-reaction, and worst of all, a tendency to attack others who are attempting to allay the fears of others. Two weeks ago, the fourth and fifth robberies took place - again on a Friday night.

Last week, on Friday night, there were no attacks. This did not stop many in the neighborhood from being afraid. One woman even wrote that she had packed a suitcase with her valuables (whether she took the suitcase with her or hid the suitcase in her home was not made clear but her fear certainly came through). This all came out because a man who makes his living teaching others self-defense, posted that there were THREE attacks...when, in fact, there were none. He named two people who would confirm those attacks...when asked, both said they knew nothing. He named a family as one of the victims...but their house had been robbed the previous Friday night. In the end, there were no robberies in our neighborhood...and still he continued.

He wrote in bold letters that we are not safe here - the absurdity of that still shocks me. I have never felt safer than I do in Israel and in Maale Adumim. In all of the robberies over the years, including the one on this man's home, not one single person was hurt or confronted. That is not to say it cannot happen and we have been instructed by the local rabbis here that we are to immediately violate the Sabbath...in fact it is not considered a violation at all...to call the police because the possibility, the danger, is always there.

And yet, the fact is, each time the thieves have heard people approaching the homes, they have chosen to run away. Not once have they stood to confront. Self-defense is a great thing to learn; but the first and most important lesson should be to minimize contact with a potentially violent person rather than act like Rambo and get yourself or someone else hurt. If the thieves are prepared to run, for God's sake, let them!

While I argued that we need to have faith and work with the police, this man began writing nasty comments, asking what was wrong with me. When he wrote that the police do nothing; I argued that while he was sitting having dinner, my husband and other volunteers were out on patrol. When he wrote that there were robberies every other week, if not every week, I produced the statistics to prove him wrong and suggested he was panicking and hysterical.

Clearly, he sees himself as a man's man - he even suggested that hysterics was more a woman-thing...great...just great.

I tried to focus on preventive things that can be done - the man dismissed them all and yet his very situation proves the point. He admits that his house did not have window bars before it was hit - and since that time, since he put bars on, he says (claims) that thieves have tried (and presumably failed) three times to get in. No, bars alone may not stop the thieves, I pointed out, but they look for "weak" houses - houses without bars, houses that are left in darkness.

Despite the figures I posted on our neighborhood list - that our neighborhood has been hit 5 times in 8 months, he continues to claim, "From what I hear on the street our neighborhood is hit by home robberies about twice per month." According to the last time I learned math, that would mean 16 breakins...not 5.

After writing on the local list, he wrote a blog post called "Hysteria and Clear Thinking" in which he writes about some "woman" (wanna guess who that is?):
Such people are like those Jews who knew what was coming during the Holocaust but "kept things quiet" so as to avoid spreading "hysterics". We all know the results of such clever policies.
As someone who has spent so much of my life writing about this very issue, I'm astounded...I think I'm even amused. I could be insulted, but I find that it is better to write logically to an hysterical person than be insulted. One person suggested he was trying to bully the neighborhood into being afraid. That is actually an interesting assessment. He is clearly trying to bully me by endlessly writing nasty comments and sticking to non-facts to promote his position. I get that he feels that he is a victim; I get that he lost a lot when his house was burglarized. What I don't get is what he gains by trying to take a wonderful neighborhood and try to make everyone afraid.

As for the accusation of silence? Wow...he's as off there as he is about the number of robberies. Not once have I ever urged silence as a solution. I also do not urge hysteria and sadly, this man does not seem able to separate the two.

What I have repeatedly urged is for those who are concerned to do as my husband has done - get out and physically protect the neighborhood, weekend after weekend, night after night by patrolling. That is silence? That is keeping quiet?

In reality, all that this person succeeded in doing is raising the level of fear in the neighborhood based on exaggeration and incorrect information. Window bars are a deterrent, despite this man saying no (and obviously he believes they offer some value, since he put finally put them on his windows). Lighting around the house - making it look like someone is home, even when they aren't. All these are proven to be effective.

Hysteria is when you post that there were three breakins, when in fact there were none. Hysteria is when you write, "WE ARE NOT SAFE" - when in fact, crime statistics prove we live in a relatively safe city and country. I know, and  have been told by many of the people whose homes were broken into, that this does not comfort them...and I understand. I have been the victim of robbery...and I know the fear of it happening again, of reliving the incident over and over again, only this time, you rewrite the ending. You fight back, you get home sooner, the police find the thieves...over and over, you relive and try to change the ending.

But the facts do not support the level of fear being pumped up in my neighborhood. In Nazi Germany, the Jews were, ultimately not silent, but they were helpless...by the time they accepted what was happening, it isn't that they chose not to leave, but that they were physically barred from leaving. In Israel today, we are neither silent, nor are we helpless.

We have police and army, we have armed citizens and we have the means, as this man has finally gotten around to doing, to protect our homes. More, we can take to the streets to protect what is ours. That is clear-thinking...and that is, actually, what I've been pushing from the start of this discussion.

This man suggests that he is clear-thinking and that I'm the hysterical one...well, while he things that women suffer from hysterics more than men, in this case, I'm rather amazed by what he is posting and the damage he is causing. Clear-thinking means realistically assessing the danger and doing what you can to mitigate it. Waiting until after your house is burglarized is unfortunate and perhaps even a bit irresponsible. Whipping up fear is just wrong.

I lived in fear for many years of my life - fear of walking alone in darkness. For four years, while attending Columbia University, I never went out alone at night, if at all possible...and in the winter, when I had a late class, I walked back to the dorm looking for someone to walk with, terrified of the last half a block I had to walk off Broadway.

I was afraid someone would grab one of my children. I was afraid of so much...and when I landed in Israel, I promised myself I would not live in fear. I can safely walk in my neighborhood (and in almost all places in Israel), even in the middle of the night alone.

If you really want to stop robberies in your neighborhood - getting a gun won't help (and with all the extra people we hope will start patrolling, could end up being more dangerous), learning self-defense won't help (when not once in the years that there have been thefts in and near my neighborhood have any of the thieves ever chosen confrontation over running).

What will help is working with the police and with your neighbors to have more eyes open and aware and watching.

Clear thinking...what a concept.


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