This is the second half to an interview with an Israeli I am proud to know. Since he has been living with terrorism all his life I sent him a couple questions for all of us to learn from.
The interview turned out so great that I’m leaving the entire thing in. Just a warning, it’s huge, but I think you will get a lot out of it. I really enjoyed reading it. So here is part two from an Israeli on life with terrorism.
Do you have to go through special checkpoints?
Yes as I said before we have to go through checkpoints at entrances to Malls, shopping centers, Bus stations and public or government buildings. Many times there are other surprise roadblocks when there are specific alerts in certain areas.
What do you have to show, do, or how are you searched? How long does it take to get through them?
Many times what the security forces are after is basic ID or “racial profiling”; history has shown that the threat is usually an Arab so they want to see what you look like what are you wearing? Is it appropriate to the environment? Listen to your accent. They want to check where are you from where are you going and why and what are you carrying. Checkpoints and roadblocks could be time consuming even if they just need to get a glance at you or want to hear your accent it could take time.
If you are an Arab you will be checked more thoroughly and could take longer but it is usually done courteously. We have strong human rights organizations a strong and liberal media and Supreme Court so the orders are to behave nicely and with respect.
A word on racial profiling, racial profiling or group specific profiling is used also towards other groups such as ultraorthodox Jews who happen to be near the Pride parade. The Idea is to identify the members group which is considered most likely to be dangerous and use that as part of the screening process instead of wasting resources. It is important to emphasize that this does not come to say that security is oblivious to everyone else but the question is where are the efforts concentrated?
How are the local police and military to interact with? Are they nice to Israeli citizens, or do they treat everyone like terrorist? There is an old US Marine Corps saying about that, “Be nice to everyone, but have a plan to kill them all.” Do the police and military have an “us against you mentality?” or do they help you?
As I said most Israelis (Jews, Druze, some Beduin Muslims and some Christian Arabs) serve in the military. We were all there or had siblings there. I see soldiers as friends even though they might have authority over me in certain situations. Soldiers in my experience as an Israeli acknowledge that and are usually ok to interact with. If you are involved with illegal activities they might be a little less nice but that is understood.
Israeli soldiers as opposed to American soldiers, and not as portrayed in the media, are constantly taught the boundaries of force. They don’t have an attitude of: “Be nice to everyone, but have a plan to kill them all.” Maybe that is something we should learn from the Marines. The problem is that since everyone serves we don’t want that attitude to follow them in civilian life. Serving in the military is also seen as part of growing up and becoming an adult.
An interesting note: Despite our constant wars we don’t have much people with PTSD coming home and going on killing sprees, as opposed to the situation as I understand it in the US. I spoke to one of the leading researchers on PTSD in Israel who explained that there are probably two reasons for that: the first is that the screening process is better here. The second is due to the fact that most of the population understand and supports the military.
Despite the fact that police do important work, not everyone serves in the police and they give out speeding tickets… They are also not as nice as soldiers. I think they believe they should be tough. They might have more of the “us vs. them” mentality you described. They will help you and might even be nice but I prefer not interacting with them.
What terrorist attacks do you fear the most?
I fear being lynched while driving with my wife and kids through Arab populated areas. I don’t meet the requirements of owning a firearm yet I do travel in problematic areas with my family because I have no other choice.
Here is a clip showing a lynching of two IDF reservists in the Arab city of Ramallah from around 2000. I don’t necessarily agree with everything said on the clip I attached it for the footage.
Which terrorist attack do you think is the most likely you will be victim of?
I don’t know, it could be a stabbing, IED, shooting, rock throwing, Molotov Cocktail, suicide bomber. There are many different scenarios. Life is not controllable, one thing is for sure: We die. We can’t protect ourselves from it. If it won’t be terrorism it will be Cancer, a traffic accident or something else.
I know you don’t carry a gun, can you explain why?
Israel has tough requirements on who is allowed and not allowed to own and carry a gun. I don’t answer the requirements therefor I don’t own one.
Even if you are allowed to own a gun at 99% of the situations you can own only one and are allowed to buy up to 50 cartridges a year to keep at home. You can shoot as much as you want at the shooting range.
How many people in the normal population carry guns?
I don’t have the exact numbers, but based on the newspapers about three hundred thousand out of about seven million. In the past there were more, about one hundred handguns were taken out of civilian hands in the past eighteen years. According to the media there are about four hundred thousand illegal weapons held by criminals, not to mention the hundreds of thousands of weapons held in the Palestinian authority. Many of these weapons were given to ex PLO terrorist by the Israeli and American governments. Others were smuggled in through the part of the Egyptian border which the Israeli government handed over to them.
What does an Israeli citizen have to do to carry a gun?
Live in pre-defined high security risk areas, or be ex Special Forces or be at least a captain in the regular army or police. In the past gun ownership was a lot easier but after our Prime Minster was assassinated in 1993 it became very, very hard to receive and keep a gun license.
Do Israeli citizens still get issued guns to have at home or carry?
Soldiers are issued guns to carry home when on leave, even this happens less and less because of crime. I hear that In the past we were like Switzerland and if you were assigned a GPMG you could take it home and of course you were able to take your battle rifle, but not anymore.
Does the government offer firearms training to its citizens or only the military and police? Can you get training if you wanted to?
You can get training if you wanted to but privately and not by the government unless it is in the military or police. Most people, who served, are at least basically trained in using the M-16 because it is standard issue in the IDF (Israeli Defense Force). Older people are trained with the Galil, Uzi, FAL, M-14. Many people are very highly trained because so much of us were and still are soldiers in reserve duty. A quick look around reveals infantrymen, tank commanders, snipers, demolition experts, navy and air force personal and even a few clerks mechanics and special ops guys.
Do Israeli citizens have to serve in the Military?
Army service is mandatory at 18 for three years unless you are an Arab and then you could volunteer if you wish.
Do you think Iran is funding any of the terrorist organizations?
According to what I understand, yes absolutely. Weapons made by Iran are found in terrorist’s possession and in terrorist shipments. Instructions in Farsi were found with weapon shipments. Hezbollah is completely funded and trained by Iran. The Sunni Hamas are at least partially funded and trained by Iran.
Do you have to do anything special if you wanted to drive across the country?
No, get in your car and drive. Some areas will not be pleasant but if you want to take the risk one could just drive. If you want to enter areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority you are, as an Israeli, in danger and it is currently considered illegal by law.
Are there flights from one end of the country to the other? Or are they all international?
There are flights but since Israel is the size of New Jersey most people drive.
What does it take to get on a flight? What is security like?
Security is strict but not as in the U.S. Profiling is based on experience which means security is searching for a threat and not wasting time randomly selecting people. Once you past the screening you’re in and this system works!
Are the people annoyed with the security at the airport or appreciate it?
People here not like in the U.S are used to security and accept it as a fact of life. People are so accustomed to it that now there is a public outcry because a security system was changed in a major location and baggage is not X-rayed, people are actually upset about it. They feel less secure. Sometimes I envy Americans for their sense of being entitled to privacy.
Working in security is a regular Job, many students work in the field while in university and right after the army. In some instances where the responsibility is of the Secret service it is quite prestigious.
What do the citizens think of the military and police? As a Marine I’ve always held the Israeli military in high regard. They are really tough.
Israelis are mostly proud of their military and feel part of it, most of them serve, had served or have first degree relatives who are currently serving or had served. People can still have their disagreements but mostly the military is held in high regard. Israelis had periods of warfare every decade since the 1920’s. They mostly see the military as a necessity. There are problems with the military as well. For example because of the three year mandatory service at eighteen we have hardly no professional soldiers in low level positions which means less experienced soldiers and lost institutional memory and the need to relearn the same mistakes again and again.
I know that Israel will let any religion in the country, does it make you nervous when other religions are around because of terrorism? I know when I first came back from fighting in Iraq, I got nervous around people in traditional Muslim dress. Is that an issue or problem for people living in Israel?
I think most people feel at least some discomfort near Muslims because of the long conflict with them. As far as I know Israelis except maybe the ultraorthodox don’t have problems with other religions.
Is there anything special that you do all the time just to be ready for terrorism? Is that normal for everyone? Are you more prepared then the average Israeli?
Most Israelis are alert toward anything happening. For example if a bag is forgotten in a public location people will warn each other, keep bystanders away and call the police. I think I’m a little more prepared or alert because I experienced terror a little more directly, but not always it is impossible to be alert all the time.
People get used to living with a high threat level. I would assume that Americans in our shoes would be stockpiling up Iodine pills by now, Israelis are not. I guess that’s what happens when you fight a low intensity conflict constantly, and in the past years we fought every 10 years in average a major battle. I don’t think this is smart, safe or normal it’s just a fact of life. People get used to everything and develop the belief: we will prevail just like we did this far.
I know you have a big opinion about gun control and the way it is going in Israel. Could you share what changes have been going on? How they are affecting your life? And what you think should be done? More or less gun control? What law would you change if you could?
I think the way gun licensing in Israel had evolved in the past 20 years endangers human lives and is a mistake. It is impossible to carry a police officer or soldier where ever you go.
A word to American readers: I believe that the idea of founding the United States on the basis of freedom, the constitution and bill of rights are divinely inspired. You should do everything you can to preserve all your liberties (not just the second amendment). You should continue to be a beacon of liberty and prosperity to the world.
Thanks to my Israeli friend for sharing this with us.