Part IV: The soldiers
It seems to the outside observer that there are many layers of law enforcement within Israeli society. Perhaps there are myriad, or perhaps the armed folks all make up the same agency but with different levels of security clearance or arms-bearing rights.
There are the young soldiers dressed in olive-green, armed with assault rifles that they wear seemingly very casually slung behind their backs. Their pants always are tucked into boots. Frankly, I find that look very cool. Most of the soldiers we saw also had ear buds stuck in their ears. What were they listening to? Messages from central command? Rather, it likely was Katy Perry.
There also are uniformed police officers, in blue, similarly armed (minus the ear buds), but also with what look like glocks holstered on their right hips. And they wear bullet-proof vests.
We also saw what looked to be plain-clothed men with those holstered glocks. (I didn’t observe women in that role.) The sun always shines, so they wear reflective sunglasses to keep out the rays. Or to keep one guessing as to where and at whom they’re looking.
Each of these folks described above – both the men and women – are the epitome of health and vibrancy and bad-assness. Bond, James Bond, has nothing on these warriors. And they are everywhere. Their presence at first really stunned me. Then, it made me feel very safe. As a white American Jew, that is.
Where I a Muslim spending time or living in the Muslim Quarter, however, I’d either feel under siege…or I’d have to learn to ignore the ubiquitous Israeli law-enforcement presence in and all around that small piece of real estate. I’m not making a political statement. Rather, I’m simply reporting what it looked like.
For example, one can freely enter and exit the Muslim Quarter. But to enter the Jewish Quarter, one goes through a metal detector station that includes machinery to check into bags’ contents and the scrutiny of a number of heavily armed Israeli officers. And when their shifts are over, they don’t casually clock out; rather, they appeared to come to and leave from their positions en masse. I’d tried to take a photo of them in action, but I never was quick enough to do so. I’m not exaggerating when I say that their movements appeared straight out of a shoot-‘em-up action thriller.
But I repeat: I felt so safe in Israel. Way more than I expected to. And more than the media made me believe I would. The armed-to-the-teeth, highly trained personnel there made me feel amazing to be a Jew; those folks have a singular goal: To protect every second of the day or night the right for their Jewish nation to exist and exist and exist.