Thanks for the Concern, But:

My wife, children, and I travel to Israel once or twice a year to visit my wife's family. (We couldn't get a flight that suited our schedule this Summer--Israel is enjoying a record tourist season--but plan to go this Winter.) Perhaps not surprisingly, when I tell people where I'm going they often express concern for my safety.

Fear not! In January 2002, in the middle of the Intifada, a writer pointed out that "the risk of road death in the United States is nearly eight times higher than the risk of death from terrorism in Israel." Multiple that figure by about ten to update things. Moreover, the death rate from road accidents is lower in Israel (I assume because the country is more compact and people walk a lot more--the roads are worse, and so are the drivers), and I'm far less likely to be a victim of violent crime in the Tel Aviv area where I spent most of my time in Israel than in the DC area where I live.

So, if you find out that I'm going to Israel, don't worry about me. But are you sure you want to drive up to the Cape this weekend? I hear the roads are very dangerous! And don't pick up any hitchhikers! I hear the U.S. is crawling with serial killers.

I have a elderly lady friend from Missouri who got to go to Israel a few months back with her two daughters. I belive she is 88 years old. I asked her if she felt safe and she said it was the most safe place she had ever been-----almost everyone was carry a gun----what did she have to be afraid of? Now she meant this in a very pro-gun country gal kind of way. She is like me and feels safe because of firearms not scared.
7.10.2008 12:30am
Ari Herzog (mail) (www):
Keep in mind that America is Israel's greatest ally, and tourism dollars (mainly from U.S. citizens) greatly help the desert nation. Imagine the consequences of deadly terrorist bombings of American citizens. Imagine the U.S. State Department warning citizens about travel to Israel. That's why Israeli travel is safe.
7.10.2008 12:38am
( the death rate from road accidents is lower in Israel)

You had me until this part. Are you sure? Israelis drive like maniacs.
7.10.2008 12:40am
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
No kidding. I was in Washington a few years ago and took taxis half-a-dozen times. The taxi drivers all drove like maniacs. I don't think there was a single ride in which the driver didn't do something that would get you arrested here in northern BC.
7.10.2008 12:51am
Ben-David (mail):
Thanks for posting this - many people get the wrong impression from the headlines. Central Israel is very safe and pleasant.
7.10.2008 3:51am
My wife is from Ireland and she used to get the same sort of concern back in the 80's. "Oh my, it must be so dangerous!" In reality, the violence almost all occurred in the North, it usually targeted people who were involved in militia activity, and it was far less common than street violence over here. But Brad Pitt and Daniel Day Lewis don't star in movies about common street crime, so Ireland must be dangerous.
7.10.2008 6:58am
Joe Bingham (mail):
Israeli police vs. DC police. Hm, I wonder who's more effective? :-p
7.10.2008 7:54am

almost everyone was carry a gun----what did she have to be afraid of?

Uh, suicide bombers?
7.10.2008 8:16am
johnbragg (mail):
I was raised in NYC, lived in DC for college and about 10 years afterwards. The time I've been most scared was twice in Northern Ireland. Mainly because I realized I was somewhere I shouldn't be and had no idea what the local "street smarts" consisted of.

I was in Derry (not Londonderry--keep reading) with my parent on their 25th anniversary (they had gone on their honeymoon, and for their anniversary they brought along a porter/driver.) We didn't mean to be in Derry, but we were in the wrong lane on the highway and got dumped onto a local street. My former-NORAID-contributing mother saw a memorial to I think the Easter Rising and got out to take pictures, video, etc. with $800 worth of electronics in 1998.

My father and I looked around, and quickly absorbed the late 1960s public housing architecture, the wrought iron decorative/security fencing, the entire lack of vegetation, and the several-stories-tall mural enjoining "NO PARAS." I forget which of us said to the other "S#@$, we're in f**** Harlem." Just then we saw a white truck drive by from the "Derry Department of Housing." NOT the Londonderry Department of Housing. I had and have no idea whether this was from the actual Sinn Fein local council that refused to use the official name of the town, or from some IRA shadow government. Didn't want to find out, either.

Then on my honeymoon, while stopping for lunch in Belfast on the way to Giant's Causeway, I saw graffiti tagging the underpass from two different Protestant paramiliary gangs. I didn't know if the two paras were allies or rivals at the moment, but again I didn't want to find out.

when stopping for lunch in Belfast on the way to the Giant's Causeway.
7.10.2008 8:43am
emsl (mail):
To make a somewhat divergent point, this just demonstrates again that people have a very difficult time comparing risks. Once a risk becomes somewhat remote, it is very difficult for most people to really understand that a 1 in a million chance and a one in a billion chance, for example, are not almost the same. Swimmers die from rip tides much more often than they do from shark attacks, but if you asked 100 people, I would bet that at least 80 would say that the biggest danger from swimming in the ocean is from sharks (thank you Spielberg). Similarly, many will obsess about the risks of flying while merrily talking on their cell phone and eating a cheeseburger while driving in heavy traffic.
7.10.2008 9:17am
Interesting analysis. I recall Rodeph Sholom (a local Jewish school) canceled their annual student trip to Israel a few years back. I don't know if they ever reinstated it. It was never clear to me whether the primary cause of the cancellation was safety (as I think was asserted) or politics (Rodeph is very liberal).
7.10.2008 9:29am
Richard Riley (mail):
Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church, VA (if that's the Rodef Shalom wm13 is talking about) is indeed a liberal Reform congregation, but it's also quite pro-Israel as its website makes clear. If it cancelled a youth trip to Israel I expect it was, in fact, because of unreasonable concerns about safety rather than anything political.
7.10.2008 9:38am
Mark Butler (mail):
emsl beat me to it: most concerns about death from terrorism are vastly overblown, and show our complete inability to comprehend risk. John Allen Poulos addresses this in his book "Innumeracy"--which should be required reading for all policy makers and newspaper editors.
7.10.2008 9:38am
treebeard (mail):
You live in the D.C. area?! Man, stay safe. I'm concerned for you.
7.10.2008 9:48am
former Virginian (mail):
Coincidentally, there was a post on Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog about crime in D.C. that is well worth reading.

Crime in DC
7.10.2008 9:55am
BruceM (mail) (www):
People are never satisfied with comparisons of risk of harm between accidents and intentional acts. The risk of harm by an accident could be 100 times greater than the risk of harm by an intentional act - people will never weigh those risks evenly.

You could argue it's irrationality or that it's an irrelevant comparison (apples to oranges) that only seems relevant because "harm" is involved in both. Frankly I think it's a bit of both. That air travel is statisticaly safer than road travel (which would be a relevant comparison) never made anyone feel safer, irrationality is certainly at play here. That being the case, the fact that I'm more likely to die from a heart attack than die from being mugged at an ATM doesn't make me feel better about going to an ATM in a bad neighborhood at 2 in the morning. Same with traveling to israel - especially during an arab uprising.
7.10.2008 10:00am
A. Coward:
BruceM is right on. America nearly experiences another Vietnam War each year on our roads (40,000 deaths), but all it takes is one year with a tenth of that in terrorism deaths and the country flips out.
7.10.2008 10:09am
Redlands (mail):
Is it any wonder? If there is anything on the news, air, cable or satellite, about Israel you can bet your last penny it will center on a bomb, missile attack, hostage exchange, or preemptive air strike. Anyone who tries to come to an informed conclusion about what day-to-day life is like abroad, not to mention here at home, based on the "news" is likely to live a misinformed life.
On the other hand, I recently canceled my air fare to Nigeria. :-)
7.10.2008 10:15am
Dotar Sojat:
Got the same flak when my family vacationed in Bogota last month.
7.10.2008 10:31am
Whatever you do, don't go to Florida. I hear that they shoot you if you even look at them...and it's legal!

I know it's true, because Sarah Brady said so.
7.10.2008 10:55am
America nearly experiences another Vietnam War each year on our roads (40,000 deaths), but all it takes is one year with a tenth of that in terrorism deaths and the country flips out.
All it took was one Vietnam War over 10 years for quite a lot of the country to flip out. Many of the people who flipped out then continue to do so in the face of a war in Iraq which kills Americans at 2% the rate of traffic death fatalities in this country.
7.10.2008 11:07am
Houston Lawyer:
A number of years ago, I drove from LA to Vegas with some friends who lived in LA. They were convinced that serial killers populated that highway and freaked out when we stopped for sodas at a gas station.

I see people driving Smart Cars on Houston freeways. That's what I call dangerous living.
7.10.2008 11:14am
Wannabe Esquire:
The number of guns carried around in Israel is not what makes it safe; rather, Israel's compulsory military service means that every adult in the country is comfortable handling and professionally trained to keep, bear, and use a firearm. That's a big difference from the U.S., where any Joe Schmo without a criminal record can go buy a gun regardless of whether he knows how to use it. I wouldn't be scared wandering around a U.S. military base, but I sure wouldn't feel the same way about driving through a high-crime area just because everyone there has a gun.
7.10.2008 11:51am
I was talking about the Rodeph Sholom school on the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
7.10.2008 11:58am
eddiehaskel (mail):
So I guess giving up our personal freedom, fighting them there so we're not fighting them here and all of the rest, are not an overreaction to the remote risks we face here in the US from the great war against terrorism?
7.10.2008 12:01pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
Reminds me of the response to the (2000) Cole bombing: If I recall correctly, a Clinton official stated something along the lines that it was “insufficiently provocative to warrant any response” — whereupon Bin Laden stepped up his provocativeness just a tad by burning out the heart of America’s largest city, while making an attempt (which nearly succeeded) at also turning the centers of government of the nation into smoking holes.

Yep, responding to that last bit of provocativeness sure was “overreaction.”
7.10.2008 1:37pm
Even more interesting is how Israelis react to ongoing terrorism threats. They have made it a practice of eschewing fear and going about their daily lives as normally as circumstances allow. Would be nice if we could import some of that here.
7.10.2008 1:42pm
Could someone alert the DoD about this "statistics" thing?
7.10.2008 1:43pm

Even more interesting is how Israelis react to ongoing terrorism threats. They have made it a practice of eschewing fear and going about their daily lives as normally as circumstances allow. Would be nice if we could import some of that here.

Especially the part where they walk around town carrying uzis.
7.10.2008 2:07pm
Josh Teitelbaum (mail):
While it is true that the death rate per capita is lower in Israel than in the US, the death rate per vehicle km is higher in Israel, as is the rate of injury accidents per vehicle km. According to the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group (, the death rate per one billion vehicle kilometers was 9.6 in Israel in 2006 and 9.0 in the US in 2005, while the rate of injury accidents
per one million vehicle kilometers was 0.83 in Israel in 2006 and 0.39 in the United States in 2005.
7.10.2008 2:17pm
Michael Edward McNeil (mail) (www):
There's a slight difference in population density between Israel and the U.S. What's the rate per million vehicle kilometers for a region with somewhat the same population as well as area and thus density as Israel — say, New Jersey?
7.10.2008 3:57pm
cac (mail):
John Bragg, can I assume your Noraid supporting mother has had a change of heart post 911 when the consequences of terrorism became a little clearer? Obviously you'll take from this email that I'm not all that keen on the IRA (or indeed any terrorists) but I am genuinely curious about how terrorism supporters in the US felt on that day - did they finally realise what idiots they were or rationalise that the bombings of civilians they were funding were somehow justifed? In particular, given that Noraid got a lot of their money from the NY police and fire services, I wonder what they thought?
7.10.2008 8:26pm
cac (mail):
"Email" of course should read "post"
7.11.2008 8:42am
KWC (mail):
I'm not concerned for your safety. I'm sure you'll be fine.

I'm concerned about your support for an oppressive regime of apartheid.

I'm concerned that Palestinians have less rights in the land they were raised in than diaspora Jews who have never set foot in the country (and who are probably only a 1/4 ethnically Jewish anyway).

I'm concerned that the US and other countries turn a blind eye to this because of military strategy.

I'm concerned that people don't see a problem with a group of people claiming right to land because of their religion tells them they are "chosen people."

It is THIS that concerns me.
7.11.2008 1:00pm
Troof (mail):
The traffic statistics are skewed.

(1) Most (if not all) "accidents" involve a negligent or reckless party. One driver, if not both of the drivers, is at fault. A terrorist attack is random, caused by the fault of no one involved. Put another way, you can't control a terrorist attack.

(2) The population of the United States is five times that of Israel. The United States if 500 times larger than Israel. If you are in Israel, you bear the risk of that danger over a smaller surface area. The risk of automobile accidents is spread out over the entire country, so my risk in a small fraction of that area is significantly less.

(3) In sum, this is apples and oranges.
7.11.2008 1:10pm
anon252 (mail):
Wow, the last two comments are so ignorant, and in such different contexts!
7.11.2008 1:57pm