There have been two times in my life that I have been afraid to travel late at night in order to return home. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t the actual returning home that scared me, but the journey itself.
The first time I encountered this fear was 11 years ago when I was 19 years old learning in a Midrasha in the Shomron. Drive- by-shootings were a daily occurrence and people would always think twice before traveling home at night. I was young and invincible so I didn’t give it much thought to travel back and forth to and from the Midrasha on those dark and empty roads. But I have to admit that, yes, I was scared. The thought of the looming terrorists waiting unknowingly around any turn frightened me.
The second time I felt fear coming home was tonight in my seemingly neutral neighborhood in South Tel Aviv. Let me give you a bit of background. I am part of a Breslov community located in the Shapira neighborhood of southern Tel Aviv. Our main purpose for living here is to bring a message of hope and happiness as taught to us by Rabbi Nachman to the people living in the big city. Even though Shapira has a reputation for crime, I have never been scared to live here.
This afternoon, I decided to take my kids to the Kotel in honor of Isru Chag, the day following the holiday of Shavuot. I didn’t get going until quite late making a mental note to myself that I would probably be returning home quite late that evening. As I was about to leave, my neighbor asked me if I was on my way out to our local park. She was asking because she was looking for someone to go with since she is very fearful of the refugees who are there too. That simple question from my neighbor opened a floodgate of insecurities within me as well. Maybe I was crazy to be returning home so late at night?
During the past few month I have had the opportunity to hear many of the residents’ stories regarding multiple “little” incidents that are not news worthy but put our sense of security at risk. Only a few hours earlier my babysitter informed me that she won’t babysit for me anymore because she is afraid to walk home late at night. She must have also heard about the story of the woman who was walking home with her shopping bags when a few Sudanese men walked up to her and relieved her of her precious load.
As I packed the kids into the car I thought about how I am not a coward and I definitely don’t want to sit at home scared. Is it fair that I should feel restricted or scared to go places? These are the same thoughts I had when I was 19, but back then I was only responsible for myself and was not a mother of small children whom I feel a great sense of responsibility towards. Back then I was young and “innocent” more or less.
I live with this fear daily, a fear that awakens within me that same feeling of fear I had 11 years ago, when returning home from the Shomron to Jerusalem or Tel Aviv. It seems that the feelings haven’t changed, just the location. Here I am in South Tel Aviv struggling with this fear while people only a short drive away from me are oblivious to what I am dealing with.
The time has come for residents and visitors of Tel Aviv to make a little detour on your next outing and see in person what it’s like for me to raise my kids here. Just take the turn off of the Ayalon at Kibutz Galuyot and see for yourself. In the morning hours the street is full of Sudanese men waiting for work. Now turn right onto Har Tzion street and head towards Levinski street, the “Harlem” of Tel Aviv, and as the road curves to the left keep on to the right to Salomon street where the central bus station used to be. You will be safe. Don’t worry. Besides, before you know it you will be at the end of the street where you will make a right or a left and Voila! You are back in the wonderful “safe” parts of the city of Tel Aviv.
The people you saw screaming at the “riots” in Tel Aviv are not just screaming because they are mentally mad. They are screaming out to you to understand the unlivable situation we are in. They are screaming because somebody has to care enough to find a solution.