The Dangers of Israel
I hit the ground instantly. The force of impact nearly knocked me out. Stunned, I tried to gather and prepare myself for more. I didn’t know how or why, the only thing I was sure of was that I was under attack. It’s amazing how quickly your instinct kicks in. Without knowing what kind of damage had already been done, I scurried to my feet to face my aggressors. I would fight. I would run. I wasn’t sure what I do, but I was ready to do it…
Israel is a place known for turmoil. When I first announced my plans to visit, the reaction was often a slight cocking of the head, a raising of the eyebrows and a general “be careful”. Even my Israeli friends, who assured me Israel was very safe, seemed proud and slightly surprised to learn I was actually visiting. Frankly I wasn’t too concerned.
As usual, I knew very little when I arrived. I knew it was a small country, that top to bottom it might take 5 or 6 hours to drive, 2 or 3 side to side. I’d heard that on Saturdays the country sort of shuts down (Sabat). And of course I knew it was the epicenter for a lot of Middle East angst. That said, I was anxious to see and explore what this place was all about.
My (new) couch-surfing buddy, pointed out a few places in Tel Aviv I should check out. She was working, so with little more than a mental map I took to the streets. I walked through the market, alive with a million different colors and smells. I ate local dishes, exercising the “I’ll have what he’s having” technique of ordering. I strolled next to the warm waters of the mellow Mediterranean.
Tel Aviv is an interesting city. It’s full of life but the streets, the buildings-they feel tired. Like a young man who hasn’t aged well. He walks slow. He takes long deliberate breaths and every exhale seems to imply something profound without ever saying a word. Then when you take moment and look into his young wrinkled eyes you know they’ve seen more than most will in a lifetime. This is the Tel Aviv I was witnessing: young, vibrant, weathered.
Eventually, I made my way to what is held as one of the oldest port cities in the world: Jaffa. The fluid script of Arabic became more prevalent than the Hebrew just steps away. Head coverings became common. “Jaffa” means beautiful and I imagine in its prime the old walled settlement would have been spectacular, perched next to the sea with a strong view of the Mediterranean coast. But once you wander past the touristically restored areas the walls start to crumble
I strolled side streets where pedestrians were scarce. The sidewalk turned to stairs which I raced myself to the top of… That’s when it happened. Out of nowhere, a rock, a brick, a blunt force impacted the top of my head dropping me to the ground. My first thought: “Oh no… I’m getting attacked…” I was dazed and wasn’t sure where the attack came from. “Focus, Derek.” I stood, reached my dusty fingers to the top of my head checking for blood as I looked to face my assailant.
I looked around…nothing. I searched the ground surrounding for the rock that struck me, evidenced by the trace of blood now on my fingertips…nothing. I looked up, and locked eyes on my enemy. Only it wasn’t the enemy I thought it would be. There was no machete-toting terrorist, no American hating activist, none of these. No my antagonist was little more than a poor building code which didn’t plan for the passing of a 6’ 2” tourist.
What I saw was simply a large concrete overhang, supporting a balcony that stretched lowly over the sidewalk stairs I ran up. Once the adrenaline passed, the nausea set in to distract me from my 5 day headache and a neck that refused to turn more than 30 degrees. My physician assistant friend says I had all the signs of a head bleed. Whatever it was, it kicked my butt.
But enough about me, I’d like to return to that original question that concerned so many of us: Is Israel a dangerous place to visit? Heck YES! Especially, if you’re over 6 foot.