BY RON FEINBERG /Web Editor //
The news bulletins out of Boston last week were unnerving. Once again, terrorists were attacking “Fortress America” – this time with bombs. Early reports focused on the dead, the injured and trying to figure out who was responsible.
Four days later, one terrorist was dead, another was in custody and the residents of Boston and its surrounding communities were breathing a collective sigh of relief.
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The casualties – four lives lost, dozens grievously maimed, hundreds injured – only captures a small part of the drama.
Truth to tell, an entire region of the country had been temporarily shut down; an army of law enforcement personnel – hundreds, perhaps thousands of officers and national guardsmen – had been pressed into service; and the full weight and resources of the federal government and its intelligence agencies were on full alert.
For a brief moment, the sense of loss was coupled with one of déjà vu, the fear that we had been down this shattered road before. For a day or two, a noxious blend of anxiety and anger, fueled by roiling news reports that were often misleading and rumors that were mostly the stuff of paranoid nightmares, hung heavily in the air.
Fortunately, balancing out all this turmoil were the good people of this great land; men and women filled with care, compassion and grit. While the professionals – police and intelligence service professionals; doctors and nurses; and yes, even the news media – went about their jobs, the residents of Boston and its suburbs found their footing.
They pushed aside the terror and offered one another aid and comfort. Even as the terrorists went about their grisly work and firefights broke out, even when one community was entirely locked down for a day, the people of Boston showed the country what it means to be “Boston Strong!”
In fact, the final moments of the ordeal – the flashing lights and sirens, yet another pitched battle between the remaining terrorist and police – felt more like a whimper than a bang. After all, it was clear how this battle would end: The strong people of Boston would prevail.
And thank goodness. But just to gain a little perspective, try taking the frightful ordeal and mighty effort that played out over a few days in Boston and thinking for a moment how difficult it would be if it happened again…and then again…and yet again.
How would life change? What sort of compromises would be necessary to protect the safety and sanity of our citizens?
Now, think about Israel.
Terrorist attacks, sadly, are part of the fabric of the Jewish homeland. The country and its citizens have endured decades of violence; thousands have died, tens of thousands been injured. The stench of smoke and wail of sirens is uncomfortably familiar in the tiny nation.
There have been bombings – focused incidents like the one in Boston – too numerous to detail, and there have also been suicide bombings, rocket attacks, shootings, knifings, collisions and even a youngster stoned to death.
In 2011, eight Israelis were killed and more than 40 wounded in a multi-pronged terrorist attack in southern Israel, just north of Eilat. Earlier that year, a man, woman and three of their children were stabbed to death by terrorists in their home in Itamar, a village in the northern corner of the West Bank.
Two years earlier, a teen was murdered by an axe-wielding terrorist in a small community outside of Hebron. The year before that, three women were killed and another 50 people injured when a man driving a bulldozer plowed into cars and pedestrians on Jaffa Road between the Central Bus Station and the Jewish Market in Jerusalem.
In 2001, three months before 9/11, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a discotheque, the Dolphinarium, in Tel Aviv. Twenty-one teenagers were killed and another 132 injured. And there were dozens of other attacks before and after these incidents.
The good news is that in recent years, there’s been a significant decrease in the number of such actions. Public safety and security, however, come at a price.
You’ll be frisked and your bags checked in Israel before entering most shopping malls or government buildings, museums, ballparks or bus stations, movie theaters, bars or cafés. Troops patrol the streets, armed checkpoints dot the borders and an expansive wall separates much of Jerusalem and the West Bank.
But, however remarkably, Israelis go about their lives unfettered by the loss of what some might consider basic freedoms. The guards, soldiers, security checkpoints and weapons have simply become part of the background noise of life, necessary safeguards when living in a dangerous neighborhood. Even tourists, initially overwhelmed by the massive show of force, grow used to the precautions and understand the merit in being prepared.
Last week, Bostonians and their neighbors got it right when they pushed aside their fear and took a stand, an attitude now labeled by the media and others as being “Boston Strong.” It turns out that the hugely popular rallying cry, reflecting an attitude that both protects and celebrates life, hearkens to the way Israelis have lived for years.