Sitting at my favorite café early one morning, I heard the screeching of tires and a young woman at the pedestrian crossing scream at a driver: “You nearly killed me! How can you read the paper and drive?” I have heard of driving while calling, texting and singing, but this was a first in my book. The driver just laughed and drove off.
“You nearly killed me! How can you read the paper and drive?”A woman shouting at a driver
Violence and crime in Israel are on the rise. The police now have a new division exclusively for violence on the roads. Even the schools are no longer a safe haven, with the recent incidents of stabbings inside several schools. The story of Yuri Volkov, a 52-year-old hospital worker stabbed to death by a motorcyclist while crossing the road, shocked Israelis. He died just for reproving ever so mildly his assailant. A mother of 11 who was shopping during violent ultra-Orthodox demonstrations is on life support. The son of a pedestrian killed crossing the street called Israel “a nation that runs over its inhabitants.”
Research attributes this growing violence to post-COVID world trends and a drastic rise in the consumption of alcohol and drugs.
Israel is one of the happiest countries in the world, so why are Israelis so angry?
Israeli society is divided into Jews and Arabs, religious and secular, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, and ideological Left and Right. An ADL study found that 81% of the population believe there are growing divisions.
How does one explain the huge gap between an intolerable existence full of tension in Israel of 2022 and the OECD’s ranking of Israel as one of the top ten happiest countries in the world? The Happiness Ranking is based on the three-year average of 2019 to 2022, evaluating 150 countries. Scores are based on GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy and social support. I can understand why the Scandinavian countries ranked high on the list, with little discrepancy between rich and poor and a state-of-the-art welfare system.
The pandemic and subsequent stress brought Israelis not only pain but also social support and benevolence and a sense of purpose in life. The willingness to assist a total stranger has just been demonstrated in the case of the victim of road rage Yuri Volkov. His family asked for help with burial costs but were overwhelmed when total strangers raised hundreds of thousands to help the destitute family which had lost its main breadwinner. Around the same time as this road rage stabbing of Volkov, an invalid man posted an ad, seeking a car for his wife for NIS 7,500. This innocent and unrealistic post received thousands of responses from individuals and dealerships offering to gift him a car. Even then, he insisted on paying NIS 7,500.
Israel is a country of contrasts. On the one hand, we live in a pressure cooker with incidents of domestic violence and road rage; but on the other, it tops the list in mutual help. Israelis display this inbuilt survival mechanism and an ability to count on one another despite all these deep divisions in Israeli society.
This sense of belonging is the glue that binds us and makes us stronger. When my mother was killed in a horrific terrorist bus bombing, my family was wrapped in so much love and sympathy.
Joseph’s coat of many colors was like a rainbow. Through the prism, we bring all the colors together. Just as the biblical story of Joseph started out with rift and divisions and ends with healing and redemption, we nowadays may be diversified but not divided. ■
Shoshana Tita is a writer and director of TLC of Potomac, Maryland, who now resides in Jerusalem.