There I was in a taxi in downtown Tel Aviv, Israel — just me and the driver. I’ve never been to NYC, but the drivers in Tel Aviv are CRAZY, the way I can only assume they probably are in the Big Apple. They are constantly honking their horns and weaving in and out of traffic. Brake checks are happening every 30 seconds as you fly through one green light at 40 MPH only to approach a red light at the next block. I was told before I visited Israel that it would be a very religious experience for me and let me tell you, I prayed a lot more that week, that’s for sure!
It was while we were zipping in and out of lanes that the driver asked me where I was from (obviously I was clearly not from Israel) and we started a friendly conversation about traveling. At one point I asked him, “have you ever been to the US,” and that was the beginning of one of my most eye-opening moments of my trip to Israel.
You see, he looked back at me and he said, “Yes, I’ve been to the US. It was okay but I would NEVER want to live there. It is too violent.” It took me a minute to wrap my head around what he’d just said. I mean, here I had spent hours talking to a number of people (including a former CIA agent) before I agreed to visit Israel because of concerns over my safety. Before I visited Israel, besides knowing that it was where Jesus walked, the only other thing I felt like I ever heard about Israel was how volatile it was there. And this man was telling me he loved living in Israel but would fear for his life living in the US! Mind BLOWN!
He went on to explain that the gun laws in the US are so relaxed that, “Anyone can own a gun. There are guns everywhere! People are always getting shot and murdered in the US…..it’s just not safe there.” At first I thought this man was crazy — there was no possible way it could be safer to live in Israel than the US. Some research later on Wikipedia confirmed that yes, Israel does in fact have much stricter gun laws. For example, you must have a license for your gun and about 40% of applicants are denied. Further online research proved that when you compare the crime rates in the US to those of Israel, Israel is far, FAR safer. For example, in Israel for every 100,000 people, the number of people murdered by intentional homicide each year is 198; in the US the number is 12,996 for every 100,000 people. That is 82 times more than Israel – 82 times! Looking at rape percentages, in Israel there are 170.7 rapes for every million people. In the US there are 274.04 rapes for every million people. That’s 61% more than Israel! You can see more comparisons of our crime rates here. Of course, I knew crime occurred in our country, but I had no idea that the rate was so much higher than many other countries.
As I went about my week in Israel, I talked to other people who expressed their opinions of how safe it is to live in Israel. Parents told me how they let their children walk to after-school activities unsupervised, something I wouldn’t dream to do with my own children, even living in a somewhat rural area. I talked to adults who were born and raised in other countries (US, England, etc.) and decided to move and reside in Israel as an adult because they loved the country and felt safe there.
Why is that I wondered? Are guns really the reason for our high crime rate as the taxi driver believed? Honestly, I don’t think so. If you want to murder someone, rape someone, etc., you’re going to find a way to do that. Don’t have a gun, you’ll grab a knife or build a bomb. The first recorded murder occurred in the Bible and it was when Cain killed Abel with a rock. The problem in the US is far beyond guns or weapons of any kind. Of course, this is my own opinion, but I think Israel has a few things right which has really helped their crime rates.
- Profiling: In Israel, they aren’t shy about profiling. If they think there is any chance you might harm their country, they are going to investigate it. I am all for profiling. Look, if you have nothing to hide, than you shouldn’t mind it either because it makes us all safer. Now, some people might say, well sure, you’re a white female so no one is going to profile you, so it’s easy to say that.” Well, I experienced this firsthand when I went through customs. The officer asked me about my last name, then my husband’s name, and what our heritage was. After a few moments, he was satisfied with my answers and I was allowed into the country. They didn’t question everyone as much as they’d questioned me and I wondered why but I wasn’t upset by it. A few days later, I overheard our guide in Jerusalem telling someone else that they often question young attractive woman who are entering the country (why thank you for the compliment) without a travel companion because they are heavily targeted by terrorists to join their regime. It might have slowed me up an extra 5 minutes, but if profiling every person coming into your country makes it safer, then DO IT.
- Being Searched – When we visited Israel, before being allowed into the holiest of areas of Jerusalem, armed soldiers searched the bags of every single person who walked in. It was much like the bag searches you endure as you enter Disney World, but more thorough and included a walk through a metal detector. If there are areas where the IDF knows a scuffle might occur, they are going to be proactive about trying to prevent it.
- Large IDF Presence – Again, when we were in Jerusalem there were armed soldiers everywhere. Their presence is well known and they are ready to step in at a moment’s notice. They don’t mess around there. It doesn’t matter if it’s politically correct or not. That’s thrown out the window when it comes to safety.
- Required IDF Service – To be honest, before visiting Israel, I thought their required military service was insane. But, while I was there, you know what I didn’t see — I didn’t see a bunch of young adults causing problems. When you have to enter the military at age 17 and serve, it’s going to help you grow up and become an adult. I look at high schoolers and college students today in the US and worry about the future of our country. It seems that so many of them just don’t want to grow up — college has become just another 4 years of playing like children for many attendees.
- Religious Society – More than any other reason, I believe that religion is a key factor in the low crime rates of Israel. Religion plays a much larger part in the lives of Israelis. I’m not saying that a lack of religion means you will always have a lack of morals, but when you are religious, strong moral convictions go hand in hand with your religious beliefs usually, and it shows in Israel. We need to bring God back into the US. We’ve taken him out as much as possible and our country has been declining ever since.
I was brought to Israel by the non-profit group, Vibe Israel. The point of them bringing me and the 4 other bloggers to the country was to give us a peek into life in Israel. The trip really didn’t have anything to do with showing us how safe or unsafe it is in Israel, yet I wanted to write this post because I’ve talked to a number of people since I’ve returned whose #1 question was about safety in Israel. I even had a conversation with a stranger in an airport – an older lady who asked me, “WHY would you go to Israel alone as a woman?!” You could see the fear in her eyes.
If you’d asked me before visiting Israel if I’d ever want to live there with my family, I would have responded with “no” immediately, out of fear for our safety. Yet, now I look at our countries and well, to be quite honest I feel a little ashamed for our nation as a whole. I’d walk the streets of Tel Aviv alone at night in a heartbeat before I’d walk the streets of Baltimore, Washington DC, or any other large city in the US at night.
Now, of course, Israel certainly faces threats from the other countries around them and even some terrorists living among them. The threat of terrorist attacks is very real. In fact, when we visited the Lunada Children’s Museum in Beer Sheva, it was pointed out to us that each floor had a bomb shelter, should a threat occur. There were just reports out this week about some terrorists killing in Jerusalem. It’s not a perfectly safe environment either.
I’m reminded of a Bible verse I love. Matthew 7:3 says, Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? That moment in the taxi cab is one of the most memorable moments I had during that trip, because it changed the way I thought about Israel, but even more, it changed the way I thought about the US. One nation – under God – indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Does that still ring true for the US?
I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity to visit Israel. I learned so much in the week I was there and thoroughly enjoyed my time. I’m thankful for a company like Vibe Israel that’s showing the world what life is like in Israel, beyond what we see on the news. I hope that if you’re on the fence about visiting Israel because of fears for your safety (as I was!), that this post will make you realize that a visit to Israel might not be as unsafe as you fear. This was truly the trip of a lifetime and I’m SO glad I was able to be a part of it! If you missed my first post about Israel (an overall recap of the trip and my favorite memories of my time there), make sure you click HERE and check it out. I can’t wait to visit again, this time with the rest of my family, so I can introduce them to all of the friends I made and show them this amazing country!