The 11th Floor

A Perpsective Overlooking Jerusalem, Israeli Life, and Talmud Torah

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Gamble, sir? With whom?

The most dangerous block in Israel

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the address of the White House. Everyone knows where the president lives. It’s on maps of every kind for Washington DC, and you can walk right up to the fence. It’s a charming view. Balfour Street is just as clearly marked on every Jerusalem map- as is JTS’s Shocken library, which is right in the middle of the block. But the building right across the street- the Prime Minister’s house- is not on most maps. Its the reason why there are gates and hydrualic roadblocks at both ends of the block- and that's not all.

As you would expect, on duty are the Mishmeret Gvul, the border police in their forest green uniforms; they and their m16’s slung down to the ground are rather ubiquitous in Israel. But there are the other guards- guards not wearing uniforms. They have more advanced automatic weapons than m-16s, and unlike the M.G., they walk with their weapons chest high and their fingers on the trigger guard. The house itself is shielded by a stone wall at least 5 meters high- and on top of that are other sensors and devices. There are lookout stations and cameras at several points, as well as bomb sniffing dogs and cars that have nothing on their license plate except the emblem of the Prime Minister of Israel. I can’t show you any of that, but I can show you what it looks like when the entire block is cordoned off- as it was during Mr. Blair’s visit.

If you are not used to such open displays of weaponry, you would feel certain this is the most dangerous block in Israel. In time you would realize that this block is probably safer than Capitol Hill in DC, but you may still have that feeling of danger. And yet …this is a block where every morning school children pour out of buses to walk to school; where people parking in front of thier apartment have their car checked inside and out, with the same attitude as if it was the car wash; where countless Jerusalemites walk on their way back from the supermarket; where I occasionally walk when on the way to and from Yeshiva.

This is a block where you would have to be a monster and a lunatic to try anything. Israelis know that while there may be no monsters under their children’s beds, they know there are real monsters not too far away. Not all that far away are actual monsters that have the faces of human begins; monsters with an appetite for murder, monsters that have replaced love with hate and the cultivating of hope with the adoration of death. And that is why the men in non-descript shirts and slacks have automatic weapons ready to fire.

Balfour Street is probably the safest block in Israel. How amazing is the courage of Israelis, that not every block in Israel is like Balfour street, with its gates, guards and guns. For there are many so many other blocks in the cities of Israel: blocks with schools, houses and markets, blocks with theatres, clinics and shops. So which block is most dangerous one?


Anonymous spice said...

my sister trick-or-treated in ottawa a few years ago, and she stopped at 24 sussex st. where the prime minister lives. and he gave her candy.

1:26 AM  

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