Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A nice place to visit, but we wouldn't want to live there

A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there

When I left the USA to live in Israel, I left behind loving and concerned relatives. Every time they hear of terror attacks here, or wars, they are worried for my safety, and the safety of our family. They call, they write. They remind us all diplomatically, but insistently that we have a place of refuge in the great United States.

Many years ago, my friend and room mate, who was from Detroit, was serving in the Suez Canal, during the war of attrition. It was not pleasant or safe. Every time he came home on leave, he had war stories, told from the viewpoint of a laid-back pacifist who did not relish the idea that people were shooting at him, nor the idea that he was shooting at other people. Then one day we saw news about the rate of violent homicide in Detroit. Some quick calculations showed that he was at least twice as likely to get murdered walking down the street in Detroit, as he was likely to meet death from the efforts of our Egyptian neighbors on the Suez Canal.

Many years ago I visited the US for some professional training. We were housed in the dormitories of a most respected American University, hospital and medical schools, in a great American city. We debated the reasons why were told not to leave the grounds unaccompanied under any circumstances, and considered the possibility of a foray to the local entertainment establishment.

"Just formal regulations," offered one of our members. "Nothing to worry about. "

He had almost convinced us, but our deliberations were interrupted by the unmistakeable sound of a gunshot, from which we drew the necessary conclusion.

I remember a visit not long ago to a relative in Queens, N.Y., quite a peaceful place really. This relative lived in a protected "estate" - with a wall, as in medieval times, and a gate, and guard and a checkpoint. The guard at the checkpoint was not an IDF soldier of course, but there is no doubt he served the same function. We were cautioned not to go outside of this compound at night. We were cautioned not to walk around Central Park at night. When we met people in New York, many offered their favorite mugging stories, and some offered stories about anti-Semitic inicidents. Almost all observed that it is very dangerous to live in Israel.

Everyone has their own stories, to be sure, and some of them are not pleasant, but at least we know why we suffer the various dangers of life in Israel.

When the occasion arises, as it frequently does unfortunately, we have gotten many of these telephone calls and letters importuning us to escape the missiles of Saddam Hussein or the bombs of the Hamas or the rockets of the Hezbolla by fleeing to safety in the United States. My sons were reminded of the excellence of institutions of higher learning in the United States as well. All of these offers are politely, if insistently and firmly declined. America is a nice place to visit, but we wouldn't want to live there. Too dangerous, you see.

Ami Isseroff

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


  • Substitute "L.A." for "Detroit" (and daughters for sons), and you've described two decades of intermittent exchanges I've had with family and friends back in the USA.
    This past July, though, I had to keep my phone calls brief. The pretext of keeping the lines clear was true enough, but also to minimize the likelihood that our end of the line would pick up the ambient sounds of incoming (rocket) and outgoing (artillery) fire. Hardly a convincing audio track when transmitting a message of reassurance and equanimity.
    Otherwise, while I appreciate that Israel compares favorably in crime rates, that's cold comfort so long as -- is it still true? -- more Israelis are killed or maimed on the roads here than in all the wars since the State was founded.

    By Blogger Galileah, At January 19, 2007 at 3:31 PM  

  • Yes. I do not remember any calls that were actually during SCUD alerts in 1991. Probably the lines were too jammed to get through. It is a bit hard to talk on the phone through a gas mask.

    Our traffic fatality rate is getting better - I suspect it is not as bad as some European countries by now. Still not good enough, is it?
    Ami Isseroff

    By Blogger News Service, At January 19, 2007 at 5:30 PM  

  • Galileah:
    I'm not so sure that adding roads' accidents victims to the list will change the fact that Israel is safer place than the US and most of the world.

    By Blogger Abe Bird, At November 10, 2007 at 9:40 AM  

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