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May 2014 Journal

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One week last September

I happen to be one of those annoying people who wake up early in the morning full of
vim and vigour and ready to tackle anything. Getting up at around 6 am is no big deal for
me and sometimes I wake up even before that and have no option but to get up and start my
day.

I have made it part of my morning routine, after having a cup of coffee and scanning the
newspaper, to go down into my basement, which contains exercise equipment and a
television set. And so I walk for about half an hour on the treadmill (just under two
kilometers) and then have a set routine of exercises - some upright, some on a floormat,
some with leg weights, others with hand weights - for another half an hour. I acquired the
routines over the course of the last 20 or 30 years, first in the late Uri Michael’s
fitness studio in Jerusalem and subsequently in the fitness centre at my place of employment.
Of course, exercising in a group is very different from exercising alone, but by now my
routine has become so fixed that I hardly have to think any more and the exercises seem to
follow on naturally from one another. I enjoy exercising on my own. I also enjoyed
exercising in a group in the past but nowadays, as I no longer go in to work, I’m less
inclined to drive into town to engage in group activities.

In order not to be bored while exercising, I watch the various TV news channels, switching
between Sky, BBC, France 24 and Fox News. This way I get an overview of what’s
going on in the world and feel that I’m not completely cut off from what’s happening out
there.

But that week last September I found myself getting more and more depressed with what I
was seeing and hearing as terrorist attacks featured almost constantly on the television
screen. Terror attacks in Afghanistan. One hundred people killed by suicide bombers in a
church in Pakistan. About the same number massacred in a shopping mall in Kenya. Ongoing
attacks with countless casualties in Iraq. Scenes of devastation, terror and grieving people.
Mass shootings by disturbed individuals in the US and the dire situation in Syria, with
thousands of people being killed or made destitute daily, have become a matter of routine by
now.

What is the world coming to? We Israelis have had more than our fair share of terrorist attacks in the past. Scenes of crowded buses being destroyed by suicide bombers were almost commonplace here ten years ago, ending only when stringent security measures were put in place and a wall was built to prevent potential terrorists from reaching their target – the civilian population. And, of course, the attack on New York’s Twin Towers has led to the introduction of extensive security checks at airports all over the world. In addition, Israel’s security forces have foiled innumerable attempts by terrorists to sow murder and mayhem in Israel over the years.

Here in Israel, security personnel check ladies’ handbags and the trunks of cars at the
entrances to shopping malls, cinemas, theatres and supermarkets. Israel is accused of over-reacting, even paranoia, but these measures seem to be required and, even though really
determined terrorists will overcome such obstacles, we are well advised to adopt the motto
of the microprocessor giant Intel: ‘Only the paranoid survive.’ The prime minister of Kenya has said that terrorism is an act of cowardice and England’s prime minister claims that those who engage in terror are not acting in the name of religion. Fine phrases that achieve little except, perhaps, to soothe the consciences of those who allow religious extremism to flourish.

I looked out of the window and saw the sun shining and flowers blooming. The week of
the Jewish High Holidays brought friends and family together. Peace has returned to my
soul, but it looks as if it’s time for the whole world to adopt Intel’s motto.

Dorothea Shefer-Vanson

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