Once again, we are undergoing another round of terrorism. People are afraid to send their kids to school. To go places. To sit in a cafe. Should you be afraid?
Every day, one and a half million Israeli Arabs go to work or go about their routines. Their lives are inextricably intertwined with ours. They are our pharmacists, auto repairmen, anesthesiologists, school bus drivers, construction workers, supermarket clerks, delivery guys, government inspectors, maintenance and cleaning people in our schools, doctors and nurses in our hospitals, and so on.
Day after day, year after year, decade after decade, we live lives tightly woven together with theirs. One out of five people in Israel is an Arab, and one out of three in Jerusalem. We see them, pass by them, and interact with them constantly throughout the day, most of the time without even noticing or knowing. Any one of them at any time is in a position to kill, no less than any one of us. Yet that does not happen.
Almost all terror comes from the West Bank and East Jerusalem. And yet even here, tens of thousands of these people interact daily with us, certainly if we live in the West Bank, but also in Jerusalem and other cities. We are around each other, and hundreds of thousands of each of us drive by each other constantly, day after day, year after year, almost always without incident.
Terror is a fact of life in Israel. It has been since before 1967, since before 1948, and will remain part of our reality for as far as we are able to see. If we choose to live here, then we choose to live with it.
One of the ways I personally deal with terrorism is to internalize that being struck by terror is as likely as prematurely being struck down by cancer or heart disease, or being killed in an auto accident (actually the terror risk is far less likely than any of these). All are scary, but because of its nature, terror elicits a much greater fear in us.
The reality, however, is that after taking whatever reasonable precautions we can, at a certain point we need to keep in mind that what happens after that is just not up to us. We can reduce the risk of disease by adopting a healthy lifestyle, and mitigate the risk of becoming an auto fatality by buckling up and driving defensively, but once we’ve done our part, then that’s about it. At the end of the day, when our time is up — it’s up. And as individuals, that doesn’t really have a lot to do with us when it comes to natural disasters, homicides, various diseases, auto fatalities…or terrorism.
So when you look at an Arab you would normally have some form of contact with, and wonder if they might attempt to kill you, try to keep in mind that you are looking for someone who is one in something like a hundred thousand people. That the chances of the person you are in contact with are about a hundred thousand to one they are not such a person. That even if they are, the chances of them deciding to strike you personally rather than someone else, and strike at that particular moment rather than six months from now, is extremely remote. That the chance of someone being a terrorist, and you being unfortunate enough to be in a dire situation at that moment, is very similar to the risk of dying from anesthesia or driving your car. It happens. And it happens too much. But try to keep it in perspective.