First Person: Knife bait at the park – watching my daughter’s blind spot

'Post' reporter Ben Hartman reflects on day care safety precautions in light of the current security situation.

A toddler at a playground in Tel Aviv (photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
A toddler at a playground in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: BEN HARTMAN)
Ask yourself: Could you fend off a crazed attacker when you are armed only with a stick of sidewalk chalk? Could you subdue a man with a knife, hold him until the police arrive, and give a manon- the-street interview that will go viral? Most crucially, could you spend an hour and a half at the park with a group of toddlers, without checking your cell phone even once? All these questions went through my mind on Tuesday morning, when it was my turn for guard duty at my daughter’s day care.
In light of the recent wave of stabbing attacks, a decision was made to keep the toddlers inside for the time being, and to stop the daily visits to the park. That was, until one father at the day care suggested last week that “as a remedy to continue normally, despite current events, to have one of the parents accompany the group when outside. This will allow the teachers to be with the kids without having to constantly look over their shoulders.”
Now, I’ve never been one to think that “maintaining normality” is a suicide pact, but he had a point. Kids, like plants, need sunlight and fresh air to grow. Also, locked inside a Tel Aviv day care all day they could descend into a sort of toddler “Lord of the Flies.” In this toddler dystopia my daughter would obviously emerge as a malevolent overlord of some sort. I don’t want her to turn out that way.
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I was on board, and so were the rest of the parents.
The emphasis was on having the fathers put on guard duty as much as possible, though the moms would also suffice. My wife, eight months pregnant, received a pass, though she did offer that if she somehow managed to sit on a knife attacker she could save the day.
“Guard duty” may be an exaggeration.
I’m unarmed (though I have a can of bug spray and a toilet brush at home, both of which I could use if needed) and lack little, if any, self-defense training.
If I were intoxicated I’m sure I could pick a fight with a terrorist and then try to befriend him later in the night and bum cigarettes off him. But cold sober in the park on a Tuesday morning? My best bet is probably to be “knife bait,” to either run the other way with my daughter or fall on the attacker and hope he has a seizure.
In recent days, I try to size up my fellow civilians out in public. Will they be of assistance, will they fight back, will they run in the opposite direction forcing the attacker to give chase and allowing me to sneak away? Not to jump to conclusions, but I’ve been operating with the assumption that it depends on where you are.
A friend recently posted on Facebook that she was planning her daughter’s sixth birthday party at a park in the working class suburb of Bat Yam and was concerned about safety. I found that understandable, but also thought, at least in Bat Yam there’s probably a fair number of bystanders who know how to handle themselves in a knife attack.
In the tzfoni north Tel Aviv neighborhood around our day care, though? I’m less confident.
That said, in event of an attack at Yarkon Park, there are potentially dozens of personal trainers and yoga coaches who could come to the rescue, overpower the attacker, and bind him in those bungee ropes I always see people training with in the park.
Being north Tel Aviv, after the attacker is subdued, he would be scolded, made to feel inadequate, unfriended on Facebook and then subjected to a series of furious Yelp reviews.
In the end, the first shift on guard duty went off without a hitch. My daughter was both confused and overjoyed by my presence during day care hours, and I got to spend the morning in the park doing something approximating exercise.
After Sunday night, when an asylum-seeker in Beersheba mistaken for a terrorist died after he was shot and brutally beaten, my faith in fellow citizens facing an attack has ebbed somewhat. There’s an ugly side, a potentially murderous and disturbing potential that can rear its head when terrified, vulnerable people think they’ve turned the tables on an attacker. The chances of finding yourself in one of these events remains minuscule, but I find myself hoping it becomes even more so after Sunday night.
In the meantime though, I find myself doing what many residents are doing these days – keeping my head on a swivel, and hoping this all ends soon and I never have to do guard duty or be knife bait for a toddler again.