Wherever You Look, There Are Reminders of the Dead

The only item of civilian clothing seen in recent years on Commander Yaakov Borovsky is a trendy cap. During the long days he spent searching for the murdered soldier Oleg Shaichat in the heat of last summer, he was careful to wear the cap in the sun to protect his fair skin.

Eli Ashkenazi
Uri Ash
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Eli Ashkenazi
Uri Ash

The only item of civilian clothing seen in recent years on Commander Yaakov Borovsky is a trendy cap. During the long days he spent searching for the murdered soldier Oleg Shaichat in the heat of last summer, he was careful to wear the cap in the sun to protect his fair skin.

But that was an exception: "In my worldview, I didn't think that commanders should come to events dressed in civilian clothes," says the outgoing police commander of the northern district. "Wherever I went, I came to the event in uniform, because I didn't go as Yaakov Borovsky the man."

"It's not a total separation," he says, "because in the end a police officer brings to the job his own baggage from his parents' home and his own family and from his world. But the uniform is by nature restrictive: you don't let your opinions or desire run free, nor do let your emotions do so. It's expected of every policeman. Perhaps because I've been around longer, the separation is more internalized in me. There was time for the separation to crystallize, to know when it is private life and when it is public life."

It is doubtful if many of his subordinates and police colleagues, even those who call him "Boro," can imagine Borovsky beside Naomi Shemer's grave in Kibbutz Kinneret, where he has gone in the last few months and sung her songs out loud, or as a regular participant in group sing-alongs with Effi Netzer, or cracking sunflower seeds at Maccabi Haifa soccer games. (He bought a seasons ticket two weeks ago.)

During the interview, he was shocked that this was discovered and worried about the possibility that it would be publicized.

Borovsky is not a condescending or distant officer. He simply does not volunteer a single hint about his private life. In a conversation on police seminars at the Holocaust Museum in Kibbutz Lohamei Hageta'ot, for example, he refused to discuss the fact that he is a child of Holocaust survivors.

This interview took place at the Afula police station, where he had come to bid farewell to the officers of the Northern District traffic department.

During Borovsky's three years in the job, the Northern District had to deal with some of the most serious terrorist attacks in Israel of the current intifada: in 2002, 96 residents of the Northern District were killed in terrorist attacks, more than were killed in Jerusalem.

"Over 50 terrorist attacks," estimates Borovsky, "explosions on buses, among residents, the attacks in Metzer and Gadish, the Maxim Restaurant, attacks in Afula, Hubeishi who blew himself up on a train, Meron...."

District police were sent to workshops and their emotional burnout is taken into account when they are given assignments. But the district commander is also left with the images. Dozens of times, Borovsky spoke to the press, his hands behind his back, hooked over his belt, as if looking for a way out. He would let out a deep sigh before summarizing another terrorist attack.

"It affects everyone and anyone who tells you that it doesn't have an effect is saying something wrong," he says. Terrible events remain in the memory in images and smells. He says: "Parting from each dead victim individually is a very, very difficult moment. I don't part from them: every road I travel on and in every trip I make, it's there."

Borovsky, a cautious and thoughtful man, did not anticipate the appointment of the new police commissioner (Moshe Karadi) and he even mentioned himself publicly as a candidate for the job. He was disappointed by Public Security Minister Tzachi Hanegbi's explanation of his choice: to skip over the generation of veteran commanders.

Borovsky, 53, nine years older than Karadi, said at the time with characteristic delicacy that in the police organization there is (and actually should have been) an advantage to experience and cumulative knowledge in every position and certainly the position of commissioner. He changed his mind about continuing to command the district and looked into retirement: on August 30 he will hand over the keys to his jeep and office to Commander Danny Ronen. Borovsky will begin a law apprenticeship with the president of Haifa Magistrate's Court, Judge Uri Kitai, and will begin studying for his doctorate in public administration at the University of Haifa.

He is not thinking at the moment about politics. He says: "Have you seen Yossi Olmert? I don't want to comment." It really is hard to imagine Borovsky shaking hands with Likud Central Committee members.

An attempt to recall a Northern District commander who reached national police headquarters yields only one name, Aharon Sela, who died of a heart attack in 1972, just two months after taking over the job. From the south, by comparison, in recent years there was Rafi Peled and Karadi. For the first time in 20 years, says Borovsky, the new top brass of the police will not include even one representative of officers from the Northern District - the largest district, serving a third of the population, where more than a third of the country's police stations are located, even though it only has around one-quarter of the crime.

"In the decision-making processes of the police there is a clear relationship of center-to-margins," he says, but refuses to elaborate on the details of the discrimination. "We handled one-third of the country's population, but not with one third of the personnel. In my previous position, as head of the planning division, I brought about a budget for the north - to computerize stations, build and other things - and it's clear to me that it came as a result of my knowledge of the north and not as a matter of dividing the pie the way it was. He says the problem is not on specific figure. "The state's attitude to the periphery as a whole is problematic. Toward the Arab sector, it is noticeable, but even in the Jewish sector there are very clear center-to-periphery relations."

On two tracks

Borovsky's position on the blatant discrimination against the Arab public is very reminiscent of his predecessor, Alik Ron, whose remarks were halted by the shouts of anger prompted by the other half of the equation he presented - the blunt demand for stringent law enforcement in the Arab sector.

Borovsky phrases the matter delicately, as is his way, without lashing out against the Islamic Movement. "There have to be two tracks: affirmative action in allocating resources in the sector in an obvious way and, on the other hand, maintaining the rule of law, which is a supreme value. In these years, there has been hundreds of homes razed that no one tried to dispute, and it wasn't an issue that empowered and unified the Arab public."

And if homes are razed and there isn't any affirmative action?

"I think these two tracks are connected. That is also what the Or Commission said. The rule of law exists. Its strength is dependent on a greater police presence. There have to be stations in Tamra, Majad, Al Krum and Baka-Jatt is big enough to warrant a police station. One track does not cancel out the other, but its absence may complicate matters: in the medium- and long-term, people who don't receive from the state the little they are entitled to may find ways to express their anger and displeasure."

Borovsky would prefer to put it in another way, but the serious conclusions of the Or Commission - exactly one year ago - against Chief Superintendent Moshe Waldman, who was pushed out, made it harder for him and for the district as a whole to accept the system-wide part of the Commission's conclusions, even though they began to be implemented even before the report was written. "I had a hard time with the fact that the focus of the personal conclusions was on Moshe Waldman, but as a whole, the conclusions are serious, correct and the police are internalizing most of them, except for the part that requires resources. The dialogue track, equality for the Arab citizen, building an array of forces that is appropriate for handling incidents, creating learning opportunities about multiculturalism and differences are simply essential and therefore the conclusions are very true. The two sides learned lessons, created mechanisms to handle crises and a relationship of direct dialogue, without attempts to whitewash the reality of the situation. The Arab sector has an important leadership, which wants to lead a normal, routine lifestyle, and with loyalty to the state. They tried to talk in generalizations about the Arab sector every time someone was caught involved in terrorist activity, they immediately cast aspersions on the entire sector, and that is, of course, a mistake. Because the leadership and most citizens are good and loyal."

In his last days on the job, Borovsky managed to interview Chief Superintendent Ahuva Tomer prior to new posting, after she was cleared of charges of fraudulently receiving something, wrongful use of police power and others. The ruling harshly criticized the internal affairs investigation unit, under the command of Eran Shendar and Tomer's spouse, Danny Rosen, who was acquitted together with her, is now leading the opponents of Shendar's appointment as state prosecutor. Borovsky says he knows her to be "honest and fair." He also says that he opposes the spirit that portrays the internal affairs investigation unit as "a compulsive persecutor of policemen."

Borovsky decrys the chronic manpower shortage faced by the police. "When I was a patrolman in Haifa in 1981, the number of policemen on the shift was five times greater than what it is today. We aren't crying and there is no outcry and shouts, but the chance that a policeman will prevent the next stabbing is smaller. The same is true of the roads: two-thirds of the fatal accidents are on intercity roads and the police deployment there is worse than it was 20 years ago. When the Traffic Police was formed, they designated X number of policemen for it, and said that it was just the first stage, and the next stages never came."



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