We drive outside of Jerusalem in our Passat through western buildings along a well kept and clearly marked highway. This could be Phoenix. It is hot and we are surrounded by desert plants and rocky hills, but the billboards and car dealerships betray a modern city. We find the shopping mall and I think that there is nothing unusual about Israel. It feels like the States. We turn into the parking lot and wait behind a BMW.
At the entrance I am jolted back into the precarious reality of Israel. I turn to tease my friend about eating pita bread with marshmallow fluff and the car door opens and startles me. The Professional Security Service guard sticks his head in and tells us to open the trunk. After an inspection he waves us into the garage.
We walk towards the mall. The entry to the galleria feels distinctly familiar. This is the mall in every US suburb, but before we walk through the glassy doors the security guard grabs my arm and points at my handbag. I open it and he rifles through my things. He looks me in the eye with no humor and nods. The metal detector is silent.
After we scope out a new espresso machine for the office I contemplate new loafers. My friends find cell phone accessories and hiking boots and shop alongside a man pushing a stroller with an automatic weapon draped around his shoulders. A 19 year old soldier giggles with her friend in the food court while sipping an iced coffee.
We drive to West Jerusalem and find a café and catch up on stories from home over beer, wine and apple tobacco. When the check comes we guess at the Hebrew. 17 Shekels for beer, 25 for wine and a mysterious charge for something in Hebrew we can not decipher. When the waitress comes we ask her why we have been charged for this mysterious thing. “Security.” She says candidly. It’s part and parcel of every patron’s bill.
Israel is worlds away from the Palestinian Territories, yet security permeates even the mundane parts of life. Suicide bombers, the Intifadahs, constant reminders keep many people feeling afraid. I am uncomfortable with the constant security and fear. I invite people to comment on what they think. Does it keep people afraid and justify civil rights abuses? Does it keep some feeling safe?
Posted By Erin Wroblewski
Posted Jun 30th, 2007