Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Homeland Security

When sniper fear was at its height in the DC suburbs, someone humorously “adapted” a traditional Jewish prayer, and the resulting ditty began making its way around the Internet, eventually winding its way to us in Israel via the Yediot Ahronot newspaper. There is a long form and an abridged version, the latter of which reads:

"May it be Your will, Lord our G-d and the G-d of our fathers, that the sniper from Washington should not be a Jew."

At about the same time, in an article by James Bennet in the New York Times, an unnamed senior Israeli security official is quoted regarding the recent indictment of a Bedouin soldier in the IDF on charges of spying for Hizbullah:

“I hate to say it,” says the officer, “but I almost wish it were a Jew. That would have made this easier.”

Jeff Rosenschein, a good friend and an avid reader of this column, points out that the juxtaposition of these two comments forge a strong statement about the differences between living in Israel and in the Diaspora.

Outside of Israel, no matter how comfortable and integrated we may feel, there is always a nagging whisper of insecurity lingering in the backs of our minds, ready to pounce like a cat if we let our collective guards down. It’s the kind of below-the-radar paranoia that results from being a minority, at least on some level.

I’m sure not everyone feels that way, but it was very much a part of my North American Jewish consciousness, that I was always ever so slightly on edge that the perpetrator of some horrible crime would turn out to be Jewish. The converse is never true. Can you imagine anyone saying, “I hope the sniper turns out to be an angry Hasid?”

Inside Israel, by contrast, we have come far enough, and gained enough of a feeling of security and self-confidence, that we are able to wish that the bad guy is a Jew. This stems from the fact that most of us, I hope, are sensitive to the concerns of the minorities around us; we don’t want people to say, “See, they’re all like that.” Because we know how it felt when we were in that position.

Now maybe the unnamed officer didn’t have such pure motives; maybe he was more worried about operational problems this incident is going to cause for the army. Maybe he knows too much. It doesn’t matter. The point is that our homeland is where we feel the most secure.

A very different commentary on that frequently used term these days: “Homeland Security.”

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