June 27, 2006 10:15 AM PDT

Life during wartime in everyday Israel

TEL AVIV, Israel--Eyal Niv, a vice president at venture firm Giza Venture Capital, gave me two bits of advice about personal security in Israel.

"Don't take the bus, and don't go to outdoor cafes like this one," he said, pointing at the cafe outside his own building. "Then again, I eat there myself. I like being outdoors. And there's a security guard here, and one over there, and there's probably one walking around in civilian dress."

Israel

Niv knows his subject. Before funding companies, he served in 217, the elite espionage unit where members serve as undercover agents in Arab countries. Until a few years ago, you couldn't even mention the unit.

But his attitude expresses the ambivalence Israelis have about living in, or at least very close to, a war zone. On one hand, a terrible explosion can occur anywhere. At the same time, the sidewalk cafes, most without personal security guards, are full late into the night, even on weekdays. During your morning swim on the beach, you can wave hello to the patrolling army helicopter.

Anxiety was ratcheted up earlier this week when Palestinian militants tunneled under the Israeli-built fence around the Gaza Strip and captured a member of the army.

"We are on the verge of an invasion," a CEO of a start-up company said with an unnerving glee. His friend at the same company, however, seemed downcast.

For a visitor from the U.S., it's a lot of anxiety to absorb. One is literally bewildered by contradictory statements. Before coming here, en route to a summit sponsored by investment group Silicom Ventures, I asked a group of Israeli-American investors living in Silicon Valley about safety. They laughed and threw up their hands.

On watch
Upon arrival at my hotel, I eyed the building across the street from me. One room appeared to be occupied. The rest were dilapidated, yet people scurried around inside them. The outside surface of the building showed exposed rebar and big chunks of missing plaster.

Was this building bombed, I asked the manager of my hotel.

"No," he said. "They are remodeling it to be a gym."

Farther down the block, at another hotel, a person has been sitting on a sun deck for several days staring at traffic. She's there whenever I look out. At first, I thought it might be a lookout for perhaps a subversive group. It dawned on me later that she might be in the police or army. But the possibility that the army would have someone so close by constantly on the watch is both a comfort and a cause for alarm.

If there is a silver lining, it's the constant presence of security guards. Want to go the Estee Lauder store? You first have to show the contents of your backpack to the muscled security guard packing a .45. Need to go to the mall? First you walk through a metal detector and get a scan with a metal-detecting wand.

I wanted to get pictures of this but was waved away by a guard. He then followed me for two blocks. The weird part of the incident was that I kept losing track of him, despite my efforts to see if he was still following me.

You'd think it would be tough to hide if you're wearing a DayGlo green vest and toting a machine gun.

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14 comments

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muscled security guard???
muscled security guard??? More likely overweight midle aged man, or 20 years old 5"2' girl...

Afraid to take the bus? Then don't try to cross the street. Traffic accidents kill much more than terrorism in Israel... Especially pedestrians...

And try not to breath. Air polution kills at least twice as much as road accidents. And passive smoking even more.

One last advice: in your Hotel's dining room, don't eat the fatty stuff. In Israel obesity kills much more than all of the above.

And the mortality rate is still lower then in the USA (at least it was the last time I chacked in the CIA World Factbook).

Terrorism is overated. It is amplified by the media, and that's exactly the reason terrorist do their thing.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Terrorism is overrated?
Terrorism is overrated for anyone who has not been touched by it. Every one of the 5 million Jewish Israelis knows someone who has been hurt in an attack. You don't need the media to "blow it up". Indeed, the reaction in Israeli media to terror attacks tends to be very much restrained, compared to media reaction in other countries, which have experienced terror.
Posted by irinka77 (2 comments )
Link Flag
muscled security guard???
muscled security guard??? More likely overweight midle aged man, or 20 years old 5"2' girl...

Afraid to take the bus? Then don't try to cross the street. Traffic accidents kill much more than terrorism in Israel... Especially pedestrians...

And try not to breath. Air polution kills at least twice as much as road accidents. And passive smoking even more.

One last advice: in your Hotel's dining room, don't eat the fatty stuff. In Israel obesity kills much more than all of the above.

And the mortality rate is still lower then in the USA (at least it was the last time I chacked in the CIA World Factbook).

Terrorism is overated. It is amplified by the media, and that's exactly the reason terrorist do their thing.
Posted by hadaso (468 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Terrorism is overrated?
Terrorism is overrated for anyone who has not been touched by it. Every one of the 5 million Jewish Israelis knows someone who has been hurt in an attack. You don't need the media to "blow it up". Indeed, the reaction in Israeli media to terror attacks tends to be very much restrained, compared to media reaction in other countries, which have experienced terror.
Posted by irinka77 (2 comments )
Link Flag
Isreal
I remember when I was there in 97.. Security for the most part is awesome and most isrealis are very nice and will tell you what parts to avoid.. Usually the bus or subways.. Just don't eat at McDonalds unles you wanna pay about 20 sheckles for a good meal.. ;-)
Posted by nzamparello (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Isreal
I remember when I was there in 97.. Security for the most part is awesome and most isrealis are very nice and will tell you what parts to avoid.. Usually the bus or subways.. Just don't eat at McDonalds unles you wanna pay about 20 sheckles for a good meal.. ;-)
Posted by nzamparello (60 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is funny
People should remember that not every thing you read or see on TV is 100% true, some times people tend to exaggerate. Israel isn't that bad, I guess that for a tourist it might seem a bit ominous, but in truth it's just like any other place.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is funny
People should remember that not every thing you read or see on TV is 100% true, some times people tend to exaggerate. Israel isn't that bad, I guess that for a tourist it might seem a bit ominous, but in truth it's just like any other place.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is funny
People should remember that not every thing you read or see on TV is 100% true, some times people tend to exaggerate. Israel isn't that bad, I guess that for a tourist it might seem a bit ominous, but in truth it's just like any other place.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is funny
People should remember that not every thing you read or see on TV is 100% true, some times people tend to exaggerate. Israel isn't that bad, I guess that for a tourist it might seem a bit ominous, but in truth it's just like any other place.
Posted by (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is pure rubbish
As an Israeli living near Tel Aviv, it is my determined view that this article is anywhere between nonesense and fiction. To follow the author's logic, one should refrain from boarding airliners flying out of NYC or visit American skyscrapers. This is cheap tabloid stuff. Israel is as safe - perhaps even safer - then most countries I can think of.

Alon Siton (an Israeli public bus driver, BTW)
Posted by alonsit (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is pure rubbish
As an Israeli living near Tel Aviv, it is my determined view that this article is anywhere between nonesense and fiction. To follow the author's logic, one should refrain from boarding airliners flying out of NYC or visit American skyscrapers. This is cheap tabloid stuff. Israel is as safe - perhaps even safer - then most countries I can think of.

Alon Siton (an Israeli public bus driver, BTW)
Posted by alonsit (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is pure rubbish
As an Israeli living near Tel Aviv, it is my determined view that this article is anywhere between nonesense and fiction. To follow the author's logic, one should refrain from boarding airliners flying out of NYC or visit American skyscrapers. This is cheap tabloid stuff. Israel is as safe - perhaps even safer - then most countries I can think of.

Alon Siton (an Israeli public bus driver, BTW)
Posted by alonsit (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This article is pure rubbish
As an Israeli living near Tel Aviv, it is my determined view that this article is anywhere between nonesense and fiction. To follow the author's logic, one should refrain from boarding airliners flying out of NYC or visit American skyscrapers. This is cheap tabloid stuff. Israel is as safe - perhaps even safer - then most countries I can think of.

Alon Siton (an Israeli public bus driver, BTW)
Posted by alonsit (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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