Several friends expressed concern when I mentioned I was going to Israel. “Is it safe there?” they asked. “Aren’t you worried about terrorists?” “Not at all,” I said. I lived here previously during a time of high conflict, so I know how safe Israel actually is. The highly skilled armed forces ensure that citizens are protected from harm. Security is ever present.
Unlike in Canada, Israeli men and women are conscripted at age 18, barring circumstances such as a physical or psychological impairment, a criminal record, or religious observance. There is a significant military presence all over the country, and a much higher level of vigilance than in Canada. There needs to be.
Israelis may be safe because of the measures in place to protect them, but tourists are another matter. I quickly learned that I am taking my life in my hands by crossing the street here. Israeli drivers are insane. That whole notion of passing on the left is foreign in this foreign country. Those using the smallest vehicles are the worst. Imagine a motorised scooter (I’m talking about the two-wheeled, push-off-with-one-foot variety that children take to school) or a motorised skateboard overtaking a bus from either side at high speed. And why wear a helmet when you could risk your life? I am grateful to not have seen any of these daredevils thrown from their vehicles. The result would be ugly.
I have learned to cross the street with caution, and so far have not been hit by any moving objects. There have been several close calls, however. I feel like I am in considerably more danger crossing the street in Israel than I was in the UK, where I never quite mastered the direction of oncoming traffic.
The sidewalks are just as or even more dangerous than the streets. Forget the distracted walkers glued to their telephones; those imbeciles are wreaking havoc on sidewalks world wide. Not only are two-wheeled vehicles taking over the roads here, they expect me to share my sidewalk space with them. Israeli sidewalks are flooded with any fast-moving vehicle that needs to circumvent a traffic jam (I use the word “need” loosely here). Patience may not be a virtue of our people after all. Considering how much walking J. and I have done over our first week here, I can’t believe that I am still intact. I’ve long insisted leukemia would not be the death of me, haven’t I?
We have five days left here, assuming we survive. We have seen so much of the country already and have so much more to explore. I am so glad we came to this marvellous place. I promise you will have an experience like no other if you vacation here. Make sure you bring sunscreen, good walking shoes, a bathing suit for the Dead Sea, and your helmet. Even if the two-wheeled-vehicle risk-takers don’t wear them, you still could don one as you’re walking. The Israelis will keep you safe from terrorists; it’s up to you to keep yourself safe from their vehicular shenanigans.