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Choices Of The Heart

In Violence in Israeli Society on October 18, 2009 at 01:47

All too familiar a scene

All too familiar a scene

This past Wednesday night, I went to Beit Shemesh to talk to a group of residents, to hear their concerns about rising crime in their neighborhoods and to talk with them about the possibility of  creating a Beit Shemesh Safety Patrol for Israel’s Guardian Angels.

My hosts were originally expecting it to be a parlor meeting about 10-12 people. Then, last Friday night a neighborhood 14 year-old was attacked by four local 11-12 year-olds. He eventually managed to get away from them, but not before sustaining a cut under his eye that looks like it may have been made by a “sharp instrument”. Suddenly, requests to join the meeting started pouring in. My hostess had to turn people away.

Apparently, that young man from BeitShemesh has the entire community behind him now! If the young thugs who attacked him plan on continuing their violent ways, they sure picked the wrong victim and the wrong time.

Timing: Is It Everything?

Nothing like an attack close to home to bring out the neighbors. But what about all these recent crime stories, this summer’s spate of killings or yesterday’s shocking family murder (see below)? Is this the direction all our neighborhoods are headed or it is just media spin?

Well, according to a recent study that analyzed violent crime in Israel on the basis of Israel Police data for every violent offense between 1980-2007,  there has been an average increase of 37 percent in the number of cases opened for crimes of violence per 100,000 inhabitants.

However,  despite today’s shocking headlines, most of this increase occurred during the 1990s; since 2000, the level has been roughly stable or slightly declined.

Murders Down, Assaults Up

The number of murder cases per 100,000 inhabitants fell from 2.29 in 1980 to 1.82 in 1990 and then to 1.75 in 2007. According to researchers Prof. Aryeh Rattner, head of the Haifa University Center for the Study of Crime, Law and Society, and Prof. Gideon Fishman, an expert on criminology and president of Western Galilee College, the incidence of murder and attempted murder in Israel remains relatively low. By comparison, the incidence of murder in the United States in recent years has been about 7 to 8 per 100,000. In England, it is 1.62, and in Canada, 1.74. In Russia, the rate has been 18 murders per 100,000.

At the same time,  incidents of assault jumped. In 1980, there were 281 cases of assault per 100,000 inhabitants; by 2007, this number rose to 444.

About one-third of all 1990s assault cases were domestic violence cases. Cases of assault and grievous bodily harm in the context of domestic violence between 1990 and 2007 increased  157 percent. Ladies, maybe it’s not such a good idea to stay home after all…

Choices of The Heart

I don’t know about you, but, in my experience, very few people are moved to action by statistics.  They may use statistics to justify themselves, but real decisions of this nature are usually made in the heart, not the head. In the end, whether its Guardian Angels Safety Patrols or El HaLev Self-Defense Classes, it boils down to how close to your heart the threat of violence has come and what you choose to do with the fear that that threat engenders. Some people go into denial. Others lock their doors and bar their windows. And some  stand up, by themselves or with their neighbors, and take their safety into their own hands.

Family of 6 Slain in Central Israel

Emergency services called to scene of fire in Rishon Lezion shocked to find four adults, toddler, three-month old baby stabbed to death. Firefighter: It was a gruesome scene;  incident believed homicide

Eli Senyor- Ynet

The bodies of six people, including two children, were found in a torched apartment in central Israel’s Rishon Lezion’s Nordau Street Saturday.

Mass emergency, Fire and Rescue and police forces were called to the scene of the fire in the early hours of the morning. The flames were soon extinguished, but paramedics had no choice but to pronounce six individuals found at the apartment dead at the scene.

The victims were identified as Eduard Ushrenko and his wife Ludmila (56), their son Demetri (32), his wife Tatiana (28) and their two children, Revital (3) and Netanel (four months).

Initial investigation revealed multiple points of origin for the fire, as well as evidence of blood and stab wounds on the bodies. The Police believe the deaths were not related to the fire and are treating the case as a homicide…

Firefighter Moshe Cohen told Ynet …

“It was a gruesome scene. We quickly realized their deaths were not related to the fire, but that it was in all probability a criminal act…

Police Commissioner Dudi Cohen, Central Police District Commander Nisim Mor and HaShephelah Subdistrict Commander Shimon Ben Harush arrived at the scene to personally supervise the investigation.

Mor: “This is a very difficult scene. Five members of the family were found stabbed and one body was found charred. We are currently exploring all leads, but we believed the murders were committed from within the apartment, since it was found with the door locked.”…

A background check on the family involved revealed the police had no record of them…

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