Keeping Safe in an Evil Reality

It is with great sadness that I write this blog post. I normally post items here to do with PR. Today  however, there is something else on my mind. For the last couple of months there has been a buildup of supposedly random acts of terror in the country I live. Today’s incident has left me reeling with anger – it was definitely not some random act. It was premeditated and pure evil. Two terrorists who live in the same city that I have lived for almost 16 years, have Israeli identity cards, just like I do – walked into a synagogue where people were praying and started killing them. Four people were murdered and 13 injured.  This was not the first act of terror. Just the other day, walking the beautiful streets of Jerusalem, near the Old City, another representative of Satan took a screw driver and stabbed an innocent man.  I just want these incidents to stop. Terror is terrible.

I do not want to start discussing the ins and outs of the politics and policies of the government. Who is right and who is wrong and what causes people to act the way they do. I don’t believe in taking revenge on anyone and I don’t believe that people praying in some synagogue or walking the streets deserves such evil atrocities, no matter what the official government has said or done to someone else. I do want however, to be able to drive the streets of my city, take my kids to school and go to the shops with a relative ‘peace of mind’. And I want all the citizens of this same city and country to feel like they can do the same.

The army or police have stated a few times that there is little they can do to prevent these ‘small’ time terrorists. Yes, anyone can pick up a screw driver or a kitchen knife. You can’t start taking these items off the shelves in the supermarkets. So how is one supposed to feel safe then?

Unfortunately, it comes down on many levels to personal self-defense. If people practiced basic points of self-defense, then hopefully on a larger, national level, one can prevent more atrocities.

What does that mean? For starters, we have to understand how we react when faced with a traumatic life-threatening event.  To simplify it, if someone is going to attack us, the body will react in 3 main ways:

1)      Fright

2)      Flight

3)      Fight

The first one, FRIGHT is the scariest one as this means that if G-d forbid, we are faced with an attack, we will just do nothing as the body goes into shock and freezes up. This puts us in great danger. While this is a biological reaction to trauma, we want to try our utmost not to freeze up, but to respond in any way we can.  With this in mind, it is better to be aware of the possibility of an attack. It is not an ideal way to live, to always be on your guard and thinking ‘could something happen’? On the other hand, understanding the environment in which you find yourself in could potentially save your life. The practicalities of this include not venturing into an area that puts you at risk. Constantly being vigilant of what is happening around you is another aspect of this – this includes NOT TALKING on a mobile phone in a public domain. While it is very boring to sit at a bus stop and do nothing – sometimes just looking around you and seeing what is going on, who is in the area whether on foot, in a car or other vehicle, can save you. Over the years Israelis have become incredibly reactive to various bags left unattended. The response is immediate. This same level of alertness has to, unfortunately now, become ingrained in people on a different, more personal level.

The second response is FLIGHT. Unless you are trained to defend yourself, the best scenario is to escape from the situation.  For an example, after all the vehicle and tractor attacks on innocent bystanders, every time I am driving past a building site, or past a digger, I automatically scan the area around me very quickly incase I need to make a quick get-away or divert my car.  This same level of thinking can also be applied to other situations people may find themselves in. Standing at a bus stop for example, if it is crowded – a good idea is to perhaps stand away from the crowd, behind the bus stop, as an idea.  When walking down a street alone, scan the area to see if there are any shops or public facilities around you that can be used as a possible escape.

The third response to an attack is FIGHT. After 24+ years of Shotokan Karate training, I still feel that if I can avoid a fight, it is the far better situation. There will always be people stronger than me, and with more weapons than me. While I do feel that I am far better prepared in certain situations than many people especially women my size (and for those that don’t know me, I am a tiny 5.1 woman), the majority of which I dare not even ‘tempt my fate’. The best application for this response that comes to mind for the average person is just to trust your instincts. I tell my children all the time, if something or someone doesn’t “seem right” to you, or makes you feel “tense”, than stay away from that person or situation. Those tiny feelings in the bottom of your stomach that make you feel a bit uneasy – trust those, because most often there is a good reason you have them. It may just save your life.

May this be the last post on self-defense I have to write and may peace prevail and calm restored to the streets of Jerusalem and Israel. Hoping for better news tomorrow…

[The author has a Black Belt in Shotokan Karate, and has previously taught Karate to women and girls. She continues to train in Jerusalem]