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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dear Bostonians

Dear Bostonians,

As you may know from reading my blog, I was born and bred in Boston (in fact, so were both of my parents of blessed memory), and have lived in Israel for nearly 22 years. Due to circumstances, over the past six years or so, I have spent a lot of time in Boston, visiting the city more than 20 times. So despite the fact that I have not lived in Boston for nearly 40 years, I actually know the city quite well.

I also ran the Boston Marathon myself in 1991. My official time for that race was something around 3:34. It wasn't my best ever (and it took me about five minutes to get to the starting line - that's how it worked back then), but it was an amazing experience. I've run several marathons, so I know how the finish line works and I know how the finish line in Boston works. After loudly cheering me on Heartbreak Hill, my wife and kids (there were only three then) met me at the finish line, just like those people who had their legs blown off - God forbid - were trying to do yesterday.

As an Israeli, I am also too familiar with the trauma that you suffered yesterday. We Israelis went through a period from 1996 - and particularly from 2000 - until 2004, in which we never knew whether our loved ones would return when we bid them good bye in the morning. The worst part was the bus bombings and that often our kids chose to take the buses or had to take the buses. And then there were the bombings at popular hangouts like Ben Yehuda Street (I recently met someone who lost a son in that one) and the restaurants in the German Colony (one of my daughter's childhood friends was murdered in one of those the night before her wedding). But society had to go on functioning and so we did. I'd like to share with you how we functioned over those years - and how we continue to function to make sure that they don't return - so that you can learn from our experience.

First, you must acknowledge that there are people out there who want to kill you, or who at least want to take away your freedom. While it's possible to count your blessings in Monday's terror attack, and say that we are fortunate that 'only' three people died so far (God willing, all of the rest of the injured should have full and speedy recoveries), the fact of the matter is that you know and I know that you are going to find it more difficult than before to be in crowded places, at least for the foreseeable future. While terror attacks can happen anywhere, they are much more likely to happen in crowded places where they can get lots of publicity. Avoiding crowded places is almost impossible for urban dwellers in modern society. And so, you have to cope.

The way we cope here in Israel is that we have security guards that insist on not-so-random searches before you're able to access any crowded public area. That means open your bags and walk through the metal detector. It doesn't take that long, but for years we Israelis have been doing it each and every time we walk into a  shopping mall or a movie theater and most of the times (not as often as before) that we walk into restaurants. The people doing the searching aren't high school dropouts. They're trained to do this. The army and the police train them in how to spot terrorists. And yes, despite what your government tells you, people who are trying to scare you with random killings are terrorists. We don't search 3-year olds in wheelchairs on their way to Disney World, but we do search people who look suspicious. Just the fact that they are going to be searched is enough to keep many terrorists away. They know that the odds are high that they will be caught before they can commit an act of terrorism.

In Israel, no one would have had access to that waiting area near the Marathon finish line without being searched and having their bags searched. No one. 

I know that some of you are reading this and saying that you don't want to be searched every time you go out in public and that the constitution says you cannot be subjected to unreasonable search and seizure. I know that your next door neighbor's motto is 'live free or die.' Like everything else today, that's got to be read in a nuanced fashion. I'm going to put it very bluntly: The small inconvenience of being searched is worth it to avoid very permanent and complete death. After a while, you won't even notice it. But it can save your life and the lives of your loved ones.

Second, you must control your borders. Our government built a 'security fence' and continues to have the IDF operate within Judea and Samaria to find the terrorists before they try anything. Most of them no longer get near our major cities. Your government has to keep the terrorists away from you. We all know where they come from. 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Saudi nationals. The rest were also from the Middle East, and they weren't Jews or Bahais or Zorostrians or Copts. Why is your government giving the Saudis free access to the United States? You should at least run background checks before you let people into the country. You're not required to let anyone enter or stay who is not a US citizen. Why let people in whom you think might want to kill you? We don't.

My description is probably an oversimplification, but it's really all you need to do. Keep the bad guys out. Keep them out of your country, or if they're already in your country (because you've been letting them in for way too long), at least keep them away from target rich environments. Your police and the FBI know exactly how to do it... if only your government would let them.

If you agree with this letter, please send it to your elected representatives. I get chills every time I walk into a mall or a major store in Boston. All I think about is who else might be walking in with me. I will be back in Boston in the future. I'd rather not feel I'm risking my life from the moment I get off the plane. Please think about it.

In friendship,

Carl in Jerusalem

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At 5:16 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Carl I understand about the Arab terrorist or should I just say Jihadist, but here we have our homegrown terrorists who are U.S. citizens born and bred. Neo-nazis,good ole Southern boys, Arian Brotherhood, survivalists and even just plain old crazys. The haave found explosive devises and guns in children's backpacks in schools and teens are plotting to kill classmates. So we see it as more complicated than keeping an eye on foreigners. The illegal search and seizure backlash I can see happening and security personnel need to step up their game. The wheelchair thing I see as being like checking a bicycle that is left in a crowded area. You can put explosives inside. Well, yours is a good article still. We just have some other problems you do not.


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