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September 1, 2015 | 17th Elul 5775

Cops and Robbers

October 20, 2002
Marc Rosenstein

Shorashim is located on the shoulder of a low mountain, just off the main road running south from Karmiel to the center of the country. We are about five miles from Karmiel, a town of 45,000, a couple of miles from other small hilltop communities along the same road, and less than a mile via dirt road from Sha'ab, a Moslem village of 5,000. We are fifty middle class families, about half immigrants from English speaking countries. There is a fence around the community, though it has a number of gaps in it. There is a gate on the entrance road, which is manned by a hired security guard from midnight to 5 am. The setting is pastoral and quiet and feels very far from any kind of threat. In the twelve years we have lived here, we never carried a house key, and only locked the house if we were going away for an extended time, or if we were leaving the dog inside (when we discovered he had learned to open the door by jumping on the handle).

Occasionally there have been burglaries and/or car thefts in other communities in the area, and the police issued warnings, but most of us ignored them. Then, a month or so ago, there was a whole spate of burglaries in a number of nearby communities, and the police mounted a campaign to alert the public; it seems that they knew the burglar and his modus operandi well: he never broke in, only walked in to unlocked houses, and took what he could find easily and carry away on foot. So we broke down and started carrying a key and locking the door, as did many neighbors.

One neighbor, S., had just moved into an empty house that her family was renting temporarily during a major remodeling project. Her husband had the only copy of the key in his pocket when he left for a business trip, so S. wedged a chair against the front door when she went to sleep. She was awakened at 5 am by the sound of that chair scraping across the floor. She froze in her bed as the intruder walked through the house, checking each room, including those where S.'s three young daughters were sleeping. Finding nothing worth taking, he left, and succeeded in entering two more unlocked houses; in T.'s he took a wallet. In I.'s he encountered the homeowner and took off down the mountain. But in the meantime S. had called the police, who had surrounded Shorashim, so the burglar ran right into their arms.

Sobered by how close to home this drama occurred (two houses away), we have continued to lock the door when we go to bed and when we leave for the day. But a few weeks after the capture of the "serial burglar," other neighbors had gone back to their old routines, and once again, at 5 am, a burglar walked into the unlocked home of T., whose post-army daughter happened to be sleeping on the living room couch, walked out with a wallet and car keys, and drove off in the family car. Needless to say, the police were not overly sympathetic. T. received a call later in the day, offering to sell her back her car at a fraction of its market value -- this is a common phenomenon - but she refused and left tha matter to the police.

I guess we got our comeuppance. I guess there is a certain chutzpah in bragging that we don't lock our doors. As if to say, "where we live we don't have problems like that." As if this were somehow due to our own merit. Just like we don't have air pollution. The fact is that we have tried to escape the evils of our society by moving to the country - when all we have really done is to bring those evils with us, polluting the countryside. This escape is, it turns out, something between a delusion and a cop-out.


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