Opinion |

The Danger in Turkey Is Not Israel’s Problem

עקיבא נוביק
Akiva Novick
Tourists take pictures of the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul, this month.
Tourists take pictures of the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Istanbul, this month.Credit: OZAN KOSE - AFP
עקיבא נוביק
Akiva Novick

Sometimes you have to know when to let go. A state that has warned its citizens of danger, published the warning in every way possible and begged them not to take the risk, can let go at some point.

Thousands of Israelis are currently vacationing in Turkey, and the pleas of Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are falling on deaf ears. Those ears have heard the warnings – and chose to fly anyway. From that moment on, the responsibility of the state toward them must drop dramatically. They are not all our collective children, our vacationers, or our diplomatic crisis.

There is a great difference between cases like that of the Oknin couple, or of Naama Issachar, who got into varying degrees of trouble in foreign countries, and those currently traveling to Turkey. Israel’s obligations exist in any event, but their degree changes when the disaster is completely foreseeable.

Contrary to popular belief, the state of Israel is not an insurance company. Its travel warnings are advisory. Once a citizen decides to fly to a place declared dangerous, it should be seen as a waiver of responsibility. As though the travelers had signed a document avowing that “We hear you, we understand you, we’re going anyway.” The right to vacation, and to combat baldness, are fundamental rights in a democracy. But they come with obligations as well. The state shouldn’t have to subjugate its interests every single time a citizen gets in trouble abroad.

Let the travelers be. Let them be careful, hide telltale Israeli signs, masquerade as Greeks, refresh their Krav Maga skills. If there’s an attack? Let them manage. Check into a local hospital, activate their insurance policies, gather for a mass psalms reading. Their problem.

According to reports, flights to Turkey were more tightly packed over the past week than in normal times. Families preferred to take a risk than lose the money they paid for the trip. One can understand them. A sudden travel warning should indeed be accompanied by compensation, or at least a subsidized connecting flight to a cheaper destination. But until a compensation fund is created, responsibility lies entirely with the travelers.

I heard a fascinating interview this week with an Israeli in Turkey (they all sound alike) named Jacky Mizrahi, who of course told everyone about the nice Turks and the colorful atmosphere. “I believe [the warnings], but I don’t feel it here. I think it’s more dangerous in Israel.” The interviewers, Kalman Lipskind and Assaf Lieberman, insisted that the security forces think otherwise, to which Mizrahi replied: “What can I tell you? So let them charter an El Al plane and take all the Israelis home.”

That is precisely the error. The state of Israel is not a summer camp, and doesn’t have to collect its citizens at the end of the day or before disaster strikes. Let Mr. Mizrahi make his own decisions about his own life, rather than have someone force him to return. The same goes for Israelis who insisted on remaining in Ukraine on the eve of the war, despite pleas for them to leave, and then begged to be rescued.

It’s not just Turkey and Ukraine, either. The National Security Council’s website has a long list of dangerous cities and countries. Until recently, the beaches of Sinai were red too. I used to visit those beaches at the most dangerous times, with private travel insurance, thus declaring that I do not expect the state to go out of its way for me if I got into trouble. Because it’s really not its problem, or that of the troops of the IDF’s 669 rescue unit. The Jackys and Akivas of Israel must decide: Are they returning home, or taking full responsibility for whatever happens.

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