The Israeli Protectors

Yesterday morning, as I made my way to Jerusalem for work from Modi’in on road 443, I was cautious. Before I had even paid the driver, I had already scoured the bus since I know that it crosses Arab villages en route. Instantly, I noticed two young Arabs sitting in front of one another. I therefore sat on the other side behind them so that I could not be taken by surprise should they have any sinister intentions for that journey.

Every day, the bus stops at a security barrier located near an Arab village. Two soldiers always enter at the front door and proceed along the aisle while looking every single person in the eye. They then alight at the middle door. They can ask anyone anything for any reason. Given the situation, they did question the two boys quietly. Indeed, it is most unusual for them to continue their journey to Jerusalem. After a small exchange of words and the brief examination of documents, both were asked to leave the bus with the soldiers.

I truly cannot describe the feeling of pride that I felt at that moment. During these terror-filled days, these two security guards were not prepared to take any risks. I do not know what occurred during that exchange. Perhaps the two boys were lacking the required permits. Perhaps there was intelligence at play. But I do not have to know. I only know that a simple incident such as this possibly prevented another brutal attack. Since incidents such as these are not always recorded, we are not always aware of just how many potential attacks our guards thwart each day.

G-d  knows that we Israeli’s have no time to waste being told by anyone that these boys were discriminated against and that this kind of conduct induces further hatred.

When I arrived at the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, which is now on high security alert, I continued in the same cautious manner which I believe necessary. The increase in security personnel was immediately apparent.

I watched them, while standing at my next bus stop, and recalled the days before I made Aliyah and before I had ever been in the army. I remembered how I used to view the Israeli before I got to know him or her. I watched the tanned, stone-faced, armed, stereotypical, no-nonsense Israeli guards which I had always admired. They were undeterred and unintimidated. Any possible emotions were cloaked behind their sunglasses, and in their stern postures of defiance in the face of terror, they never hesitated to face and question anybody who aroused their suspicion. To me, they represented the paragon of tenacity, strength and valour.

I saw one individual with his hands in his pockets and who appeared to be an Arab approaching the station. The security personnel asked in Hebrew “Hi. What’s going on?” The individual continued to walk while answering. Unlike the British style on which I was raised, there is no talk of “sir” or “please can you stop for a moment while we ask you a few questions?” Such niceties have no place in the current situation. If you cannot understand this, you have never lived it. A job has to be done, and there is no beating around that fact. The female border police soldiers (Magavnikiot) nearby sternly asked, “Where are you going?” What they meant, however, was “Don’t walk off.”

As I said, I remembered how I used to view the Israeli before I was a soldier. I never gave much thought to the fact that they wanted the same as everyone else. They, too, simply wanted to find boyfriends and girlfriends, go out and have fun. They spoke nonsense, argued more than the world’s highest paid lawyer. My perception that they were superhuman and that everything was about the green uniform they proudly wore was moderated somewhat. But my perception of them as heroes never diminished and today I was reminded why.

This morning I felt that way again. I watched Jewish men and women approach people at great risk in order to protect us. How proud I was that my people, and nobody else’s, took the matter so seriously not simply because they had received orders to do so, but because they were going to do all in their power to prevent anybody from laying a finger on another Jew.

Indeed, I cannot help but think back to when a person could harm Jews without retribution. For the guards, their task was not simply a matter of policy or orders. For them, the matter was personal. Every victim here is more than another civilian. A victim is a family member. Such is life in the small Jewish world.

I am not ashamed to say that the sight moved me.

Therefore, on behalf of all those who appreciate just how precious you Israeli soldiers, police and guards are, and on behalf of those Jews less willing to praise you as the heroes and heroines that you are,

Thank you.

About the Author
Alexander Apfel holds a BA and MA in Modern History. He is an IDF reservist in the armored corps.