Nothing in Israel to Be Proud of Anymore

The insufferably violent Tel Aviv of today is more like New York of yesterday.

The beach can be a dangerous place, especially in the hot days of summer. We have known this since we first read Albert Camus' "The Stranger," and had it burned into our consciousness by the murder of Haim Arlosoroff. The beach, which is supposed to be a place of relaxation, is a place of simmering violence, and that which simmers eventually boils over.

There is no part of our lives where cooperation between Jews and Arabs is as close as is it is between Jewish and Arab criminals. Would that other areas evince such solidarity. I will never understand why of all things crime and evil cause people to join hands, while goodwill makes hands clench into fists. This is a phenomenon to be analyzed by experts in existentialism, which negates the past and future significance of life, leaving only the present, and death.

Over one weekend, people were found - some unidentified - dismembered and burned, butchered and drowned. And who remembers the slaughter at the gay club? We have to fight to maintain our humanity, but it is not entirely clear to whom we should address our cry: Don't do this to us, don't make us commit crimes, or even consider crimes, that are worse than the original crimes.

Instinct brings us to propose the death penalty for the gang behind the Tel Baruch murder, or at the very least to recommend Shai Dromi's gun in the belt or Meursault's gun from Camus' novel. Only on second thought do we come to our senses: After all, in proper countries, the state does not execute people once it realizes there is no point to it. Neither would we want this country to be wall-to-wall guns with itchy trigger-fingers.

You may not have noticed something while you slept: This country has become hell, into which not only sinners - but also the innocent - may be cast at any moment. This is not to say that Israelis are tarred and feathered more than the citizens of many other countries, but that Israel is insufferably violent and that there is no longer anything to be proud of; only to be ashamed, if not to despair.

I still remember my days at New York University. How we would lord it over the "locals" - in Israel that could not happen, we would say to our hosts as we looked, pained, at the daily, blood-curdling manifestations of violence. In Israel, we told them, little children can go around alone and nothing bad will happen to them. Meanwhile, things have gone the other way: Tel Aviv today is more like New York of yesterday, and even like pathological, legendary Chicago.

My family has been warning me for a long time not to make any comments to anyone when I go out in public. I can never know, they tell me, who I'm dealing with, he might have a knife. But I have trouble keeping quiet, because that is like acquiescence. Under cover of paralyzing fear, violence increases. Of course I am afraid to intervene, but I am more afraid of my fear.

Sometimes one has the impression that violence in this county is also undergoing privatization. The state no longer has a monopoly over the use of force. We meet violence everywhere: in the army, schools, hospitals, publicly, privately, driving and parking. And when the state is deprived of its singular status as enforcer, it also becomes a victim; it loses the faith of its citizens and remains a hollow frame. What a country.