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Galilee Diary: Crime watch

Galilee Diary: Crime watch

A resident [of a shared courtyard] can be required to participate in the cost of building a gate and gatehouse…  But once there was a pious man who was frequently visited by Elijah the prophet.  He built a gatehouse and Elijah stopped speaking to him…(Rashi's commentary: … because the gate kept away the poor, so he could not hear their cries). -Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 7b

On a recent Friday night three homes on Shorashim were burglarized – this time in the early evening hours when the residents were out at Kabbalat Shabbat or dinner at the neighbors.  One of the homes, based on past experience, was protected by an alarm and a safe (which was taken…).  Such depressing occurrences recur in waves; it seems that every several months there is some activity, people take extra precautions that make them feel a bit more secure, it is quiet for a while, and then – another hit.  The moshav is surrounded by a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, but there are gaps, and if you're motivated, it's not so hard to get over, under, or around it.  There is a security guard on duty from midnight to 5 am, manning the entrance gate and patrolling the internal streets periodically.  There is a massive iron gate at the entrance, which can only be opened by a signal from a cell phone that is registered to a resident of the community.  This is often inconvenient, makes some people feel secure and others feel like colonialists – and is, apparently, not all that helpful.  And of course Shorashim is no different from the dozens of other somewhat isolated rural communities scattered around the country.

We are all nostalgic for the good old days, twenty years ago, when we seemed to live a kind of idyllic pastoral life out here in the periphery, bragging to our city friends that we didn't even carry a key to the front door.  What has changed?  Is it just that we are less naïve now?  Or is it that our standard of living has risen, our homes having gotten larger and more stocked with stuff that is tempting to steal?  Or has the degree of economic inequality increased, so that there are more desperate people looking for a way to survive?  Or is it perhaps that the ineffectuality of the law enforcement system in dealing with this type of crime has made it a worthwhile venture for more people?  Or perhaps organized crime has permeated the local underclass, providing incentives and mechanisms for moving stolen goods?  Or could it be a rise in drug addiction in Arab villages?  All of the above?

For the new residents who left the city seeking that pastoral idyll, this reality is daunting, and they tend to like to see the gate kept closed, and are eager to volunteer for neighborhood-watch patrols.  And among newbies and veterans alike safes and alarm systems and reinforced doors are popular home improvements.  Then there are those (I'm not sure if they're the majority or the minority) who sort of ignore the whole thing; they just lock their doors (mostly) and hope for the best.  Maybe they are fatalists, figuring that there is no foolproof defense in any case; maybe they value their feeling of freedom more than their stuff; maybe they are just naïve/lazy (it won't happen to me).   What seems to be fairly certain is that the problem is not going to go away soon, nor be solved by any particular security measure, nor is anyone, no matter how security-conscious, immune.

More than just a nationalist movement, Zionism has always been rooted in the Jewish messianic tradition, and Jews – both in the state and in the Diaspora – have tended to expect that somehow our state would be different, better, "the first flowering of our redemption."  At the same time, another powerful component of the Zionist vision was "normalization:" Finally, we would be a normal nation, just like everyone else.

Out here in the boonies, at the moment, through the bars on the windows, it looks like normalization has trumped messianism.  But we've only just begun; the question is, where do we go from here?

Originally published in Ten Minutes of Torah.

Published: 1/04/2012

Categories: Israel, Reform Judaism
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