On Thursday, August 8, the body of 19 year old Dvir Sorek was discovered near Migdal Oz, a settlement of Judea and Samaria in Israel. Unfortunately, news of this kind reaches us far to often in Israel. Indeed, sometimes it can feel that the only constant in this country is war and terrorism. But only sometimes. Usually – it feels as safe as any city in the US, if not safer.
Day to day, it is very easy not to notice the violence – even when a terrorist attack happens nearby. The first time I ever heard of a stabbing taking place near to where I lived (in Jerusalem at the time), I immediately learned how easy it is to ignore. I was at work. I looked around to get clues as to how to act natural in a situation like this. It was strange to me at the time that people barely seemed to notice. Instead, we went about our work as if nothing had happened. It was chilling and eerie.
Years later, I understand. Terrorism is greatly a part of our lives, and there is nothing we can do about it. To care too much would be to lose focus on what we can control; focusing on our families, our jobs, and all of those other day to day parts of life.
Plus, when you compare Israel to other countries or cities in terms of violence statistics, it does not stand out as incredibly dangerous. Individual Israelis are each unlikely to be directly impacted by terrorism unless they live in the areas right next to the Gaza strip. Statistically, more people are murdered in New York City each year than are killed by terrorism in Israel. Of course, terrorism is more complex and there are many aspects of it besides the final numbers of fatalities. But the point is this: It usually doesn’t feel dangerous – and the statistics can help explain why.
Despite the lack of day to day danger, it is disconcerting to live with terrorism happening so regularly. The end result is we live in a daily dichotomy of fear and peace. Our lives feel safe almost every single day, and at the same time we know that there are people living close to us who want to attack and harm us and our families. They make no distinction between military and civilian, and even prefer to strike civilians in order to provoke fear. The best way to understand what it’s like to live here, in terms of the violence and terror, is to understand this daily contradiction. It is calm and peaceful most of the time, sporadically terrifying, unstable when you think of the big picture, and generally our daily concerns are the same as anywhere else – family, work, and the other mundane parts of life.