This is the reality we live with in our tiny country, the size of the state of Delaware and home to half of the world’s 14 million Jews. Although ethnic Jews make up less than .01% of the world population and have a .2% share in world religions (as compared to 2.1 billion Christians and 1.5 billion Muslims), somehow we end up in the news virtually daily, either for praise or censure. Our tiny country, the ONLY Jewish country in the world (although it also welcomes people of ALL religions), produces a constant flow of innovations in every area of science and technology, as well as the fine and performing arts. We are surrounded by 23 nations whose official religion is Islam, in which people of other religions are either not tolerated at all (such as the Baha’i, who fled to Israel from Iran, and the Sikhs who have been decimated in what was once their native country in Pakistan). We serve as the United States’ unofficial military base in the Middle East. We are the ONLY democracy in the Middle East. Apartheid? If we were an apartheid nation, would we have Arab political parties and Arab members of Parliament, and full access to any and all parts of Israel for ALL of her citizens regardless of ethnicity?
What about checkpoints, you say? Hear this: when I go to the bank, the bus station, the supermarket, the drug store, the mall–virtually any public building or gathering place–I must go through a checkpoint in order to enter. I am a white Anglo-Israeli, and I get searched just like everybody else. This is because some of the worst bombings during the Intifadas were carried out by females, who now have their names proudly displayed on street signs and have girls’ schools named after them, and the days of their “martyrdom” are celebrated as holidays.
On an ordinary workday last week, strident sirens pierced our routine and for a few jarring minutes reminded all of us, throughout the country, of the dangers that lurk ominously beneath our run-of-the-mill existence.
The civil defense exercise simulated massive rocket barrages on packed urban centers with an eye to practice responses to missile onslaughts from Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza – in every corner of Israel and at all hours of the day and night.
Air raid sirens sounded midday to test preparedness in workplaces and schools. Another siren in the evening gauged preparedness in the homes. In both cases, the public was asked to locate the closest secure room and/or bomb shelter.
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