Follow ysgotlieb on Twitter
by RSS
Issues of the Day Countering the Violence Within: A Must for Israel

As someone who has never thrown a punch in his life, the idea of being struck or having to ward off an attack on my body is a most disturbing one. And while I am not aged, I am no longer a youngster and the thought of having to defend my person against physical attack is frightening. I wonder how in an extreme situation I would fare. Not very well, I suppose.

Accordingly, three recent instances of violence against older men raises concern and evokes disgust. During Passover, a 71 year old man was beaten by two individuals  in their twenties for driving too slowly; the victim subsequently suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. A 75 year old was attacked and his ankle broken when he told his attacker that he was not allowed to let his dog run loose in a nearby playground. Yet a third person, a 79 year old Holocaust survivor, was attacked by a father after the elder chastised the latter’s son for damaging a bench used by older people in a park.

There has also been a rash of reports about physical abuse by caregivers against invalids, and attacks, physical or verbal, against teachers,  doctors, judges, and social workers have also been recorded in the past year. Acre Mayor Shimon Lankr was shot in the chest by assailants late last month, and the mayor of Hadera was the target of a Molotov bomb last February. With 641 cases per 100,000 people of police-reported assaults, Israel ranks fifth from the top in the number of violent attacks on civilians among OECD countries, according to the  CIVITAS Institute for the Study of Civil Society. Aggression is also sublimated in our society and spills over into actual attacks on roadways, in stadiums and on the streets.  

Israeli society is not in the throes of violence and it does not top the list of countries where personal safety is a constant preoccupation. But in view of the hostilities between our neighbors and ourselves and the social and economic strains this engenders – ubiquitous security checks in public places, high taxes required to sustain the defense budget, obligatory and reserve military duty, to name a few – violence and force, always objectionable but particularly so in civil society, is unacceptable whether it takes place between individuals, in the form of domestic violence, or as clashes between ethnic and religious groups.  

Parents and educators, literary and cultural figures, public officials and parliamentarians, and civic and religious leaders, Jews and Arabs as one, have an obligation to bring the subject of violence to the fore and take concerted efforts to counteract it. Emphasizing dialog over force must become an Israeli cultural norm – in civic society as well as in our regional and international relations.  

© Yosef Gotlieb, . All rights reserved