Modi'in lands on terror map... yawn

Citizens should demand more from building contractors - and from themselves.

modiin building 88 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
modiin building 88 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In the three years I've lived in Modi'in, I can't recall ever seeing our town make front page news. Certainly, the synagogues around the corner from my home, and where I often pray, has never been the subject major news coverage. However, the June 20 Jerusalem Post changed all that when it carried a page one report, "Shin Bet foils bombing of Modi'in synagogue," with a photograph of what is known as the "pizza shul" or Zichron L'Avraham. The Shin Bet, we learned, had averted a plot to blow up the synagogue by terrorists based in Hebron who had planned to carry out other attacks including kidnapping an American. The terror cell had allegedly been headed by Ramzi Sharwana, who was familiar with the area because he had been illegally working in the area. Modi'in had made its way onto the terror map. As expected, friends from the United States who follow Israeli news coverage emailed me asking whether I was familiar with the synagogue and whether it was "my" shul. And a number of individuals in Modi'in posted links to the story on one of Modi'in's English-language email forums. That another miracle had occurred in Modi'in was pretty much greeted with a collective yawn. Still, one writer did demand that police interrogate all Palestinian Arab and foreign workers to ensure they were legal. Another writer claimed that in the building where he is having an apartment built he had seen pro-PFLP graffiti - six months ago, but didn't know who to report it to. I have been surprised by this overwhelming non-reaction. Are people not concerned about their safety? Is it possible that the economic interests of building contractors and consumers are being put ahead of security issues? I SUPPOSE one reason there's been little reaction is that the arrests didn't come completely out of the blue. Modi'in synagogue-goers knew something was afoot months ago when suddenly one Sabbath there were more gun-toting worshipers than usual. But all we were told then was that there had been a terrorist warning against a synagogue in the city. What is actual news are the details of the arrests. MAYOR MOSHE Spector frequently touts Modi'in as being the fastest city being built in the world after Las Vegas. Residents joke that Modi'in has its own city bird - the crane, and song - I've been working on the railroad. There is a constant parade of cement trucks in and out of the city. Modi'in is the first and only completely planned city in Israel and is slated to become its fourth largest with a projected population of 250,000. To feed this insatiable need for growth there's a constant demand for unskilled labor. Contractors claim they have to use Palestinian Arab and foreign labor because Jews will not work for the pitiful salaries that they pay. Contractors fail to mention that paying higher salaries would cut into their already comfortable profit margins. And contractors turn a blind-eye to the use of illegal workers because of an acute shortage in legal workers. Arab workers from the territories who are permitted to work within the Green Line have permits that restrict their presence to daylight hours. However, due to the lengthy process of crossing security checkpoints day in and day out, and the expense in commuting to and from Jenin or Hebron the workers try to stay in the projects they are building during their work week. That Arab laborers are living in unfinished apartments or villas is of no surprise to consumers who have bought property in Modi'in. Friends of mine who have either bought property or are in the process of having something built readily admit that they are uncomfortable with these laborers sleeping in their homes. When I suggest the laborers also tend to be the source of many of the break-ins and thefts that occur around unfinished neighborhoods, most seem surprised. Another friend told me that he accepted having workers sleep in his house because he was building a basement without the proper permit. He was afraid that if he turned the contractor in, the contractor would in turn report the illegal construction. I HEAR estimates that there are as many as 6,000 Arab and foreign workers in Modi'in everyday. The police and municipality lack the manpower necessary to ascertain the legality of every individual who is working in Modi'in. Police that do find illegal workers are only allowed to take them back to the nearest checkpoint and instruct them not to return to Modi'in. This is laughable. Because the police know that these "illegals" will find a way to sneak back into the city the first chance they have. Today, Modi'in is safe because of some good work by the police and Shin Bet - not to mention some help from Above. I believe that the residents should do something to improve the security situation. Consumers should demand that contractors use only legal foreign laborers rather than residents of the Territories. Last time I checked workers from Thailand, China, and Vietnam were not the ones carrying out terror attacks. Secondly, residents should volunteer some of their time to the civil guard to help bolster the local police. Volunteer police are the backbone of the regular force and can serve as a major source of much-needed manpower. The writer is president of Ken HealthCare and has just completed a book on nursing homes.