It Isn’t Fair But It’s A Fact of Life.

Here’s my article from today’s Philadelphia Inquirer:

Prepare for a new wave of security

By Diana Bletter
POSTED: Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 3:01 AM
The first time I walked into a supermarket in northern Israel, I was surprised when a guard stopped me to check my handbag. How could I have shoplifted? I hadn’t even stepped into the store. Then I realized he was checking for a bomb, far more concerned with what I might sneak into the store than what I might sneak out of it.

The security measures I’ve grown accustomed to in Israel, where I’ve lived for the past 20 years, await many Americans since the deadly attack at the Boston Marathon on Monday. A new kind of future will begin, one that Israelis are already familiar with. It isn’t pretty, but it’s precautionary; it isn’t fair, but it’s a fact of life.

Terrorists deliberately attack places full of life, joy, and movement. An act of terror is a strike against civil discourse, dialogue, mutual respect, and tolerance. It is a strike against freedom and life.

After countless terrorist attacks in supermarkets, cafes, and buses, Israelis have been forced to take precautionary measures that might be inconvenient, but are life-saving. Chances are, Americans will have to adjust to similar measures.

At Israeli banks, post offices, and malls, there are security guards posted at the entrances; at train stations, there are metal detectors and X-ray machines. Israelis are taught at an early age to watch for suspicious objects and to be aware of their surroundings and their actions.

I learned this the hard way.

One time, while shopping for shoes, I accidentally left my shoe box on a bench in the nearby town of Nahariya. I drove home, remembered my shoes, and returned to retrieve the box. The street already had been cordoned off because people had reported a suspicious object. I asked a policeman what was going on, and he said that a bomb squad was set to implode a box that might contain a bomb. “But those are my new shoes,” I explained.

“This is the Middle East!” a policeman scolded. “You can’t be careless like that!”

The finish line at the Boston Marathon is the starting point of this new kind of lesson. Just as security at U.S. airports has been increased radically, security at outdoor events and large gatherings will also be tightened. Gone are America’s carefree days. In their place will be stricter security measures. And while a heightened sense of vigilance can be unnerving, it encourages strangers to look out for one another and enforces connections between them.

After a terrorist attack in Israel, the nation seems to stand still for a while. Then daily life slowly returns, even if it takes a long time.

A decade after a terrorist attack at the Café Hillel in Jerusalem, where seven people were killed and more than 50 people were wounded in September 2003, a close friend of the security guard who threw himself on the terrorist (preventing the attack from being even deadlier) has opened a burger restaurant on the same spot. It is a reminder that life must go on; survivors and bystanders need to continue to be strong in memory of the victims.

There is no easy solution to terrorism, but Americans can take a stand by continuing to attend races, outdoor events, and celebrations. By sticking together, by being resilient and courageous, Americans prove to terrorists that they cannot win.

[Author’s note: As I wrote yesterday, terrorists revel in death. Be a hero. Celebrate life.]

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About dianabletter

Diana Bletter is a writer living in northern Israel whose novel, A Remarkable Kindness, is forthcoming from HarperCollins in August. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, tabletmag, and other publications. Her first book, The Invisible Thread: A Portrait of Jewish American Women (with photographs by Lori Grinker) was nominated for a National Jewish Book Award.
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10 Responses to It Isn’t Fair But It’s A Fact of Life.

  1. Hi Diana,
    You write so beautifully. I’d rather be cautious than sorry. I’m sure measures will be taken in Canada too.
    I couldn’t help laughing at your shoe story, although I know it wasn’t funny at the time for you or for the bomb squad.

    • dianabletter says:

      Hi Tracy, we always have to find humor in situations, right? Bad reality…great anecdote! Thanks for writing.

  2. Reblogged this on Marilyn Slagel and commented:
    RebloggedReblogged from THE BEST CHAPTER by Diana Bletter. Thanks, Diana, for your wise words.

  3. You always write with inspiring balance, Diana. The solemn increases in security, then your new shoes left in a box on a park bench. Thank you for the honesty and the reality…and gentle humor.
    Author Dennis Lehane (one of my favorites) grew up in Boston’s lower, tougher neighborhoods. He had an essay in the NYTIMES about “They Chose The Wrong City.” It wasn’t about the tough gangs finding the culprits and getting even, but about a city who will mourn, take a deep breath, and refuse to give in to the fear…next year there will be another Boston Marathon, he says.

    • dianabletter says:

      Hi Marylin, Yes, I read that Lehane piece-it was so powerful. I hope he’s right and all of us stand up to terrorists simply by continuing our lives and being strong. Thanks for writing!

    • dianabletter says:

      Hi Marylin, I read the Dennis Lehane piece. It was so powerful. He is a great writer. We must refuse to give in to fear…even if our knees are trembling. Thank you for writing.

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  5. An interesting dialogue is value comment. I believe that you should write more on this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but generally persons are not enough to talk on such topics. To the next. Cheers

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