Nahum Barnea

The alcohol curse

Nahum Barnea wonders why police do nothing in face of alarming alcohol abuse

Not too long ago, during a visit to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, I learned something about driving in a reckless city. The drivers in Rio don’t stop at a red light: They slow down, take a quick look to the left and right, and keep on driving. They do it not because they are in a rush, or because of mischief or a wish to aggravate the public order, bur rather, out of fear.


A car that stands at the light is a convenient target for robbers, murderers, or rapists. Fortunately, Brazilians are an easy-going people. Driving through a red light usually does not end in an accident.


Life in Israel includes all sorts of anxieties, yet we have been spared the anxiety over the prospect of a robber ambushing us at an interaction. We have been blessed with relative safety. Yes, on occasion we are exposed to a wave of terrorism or see rockets and mortar shells land here, but mothers are not scared to send their children to school, drivers are not scared to hit the road, and hikers are not scared to seek solitude in nature or breathe some fresh air at the beach.


This is the secret of the quality of life here: The sense of safety in the public sphere.


But then came along alcohol and messed up everything. We always had alcohol around here, but not at such quantities and not so readily available. Anyone who ever happened to find himself at entertainment venues in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem late at night has encountered thousands of youngsters, some of them minors, who fill themselves up with alcohol to the point of loss of consciousness after buying it at kiosks.


Some attribute this malady to Russian immigration. Others attribute it to the crumbling sense of parental authority. Nobody understands why authorities and police turn a blind eye to the massive sale of alcohol to minors. It appears that someone is taking care of law enforcement officials, with money or other means.


In addition, nobody understands how police allow drunken youngsters to drive, vandalize, get into brawls, and act wildly.


Yesterday’s brawl is tomorrow’s murder

Tel Aviv is very proud of the entertainment options it offers. Global tourism journals praise it for the number of clubs and bars, the open atmosphere, and the availability of alcohol. Yet this party has another facet, which is not discussed in tourism journals: Loss of control, accidents, violence, and increasingly frequent murders.


When the police are blamed for failures in enforcing the law at entertainment venues, they respond with claims about manpower shortage and insufficient budget. There is some truth in these claims, but only some. Recklessness produces crime. This is true both for car theft and for street thuggery.


Had police been wise enough to enforce law and order at night, they would not have to invest so much time and manpower in probing crime scenes. Apparently there is no glory in crime prevention, especially when we are dealing with some unknown youngster who got involved in a drunken brawl. However, yesterday’s brawl is tomorrow’s murder.


There is no forgiveness for the murder of Leonard Karp, who was killed over the weekend while trying to protect his wife and daughter in the face of a bunch of drunks on the beach. His death has implications that go beyond the personal tragedy. It comes on the heels of other thuggery-related murders this summer.


Israelis are different than Brazilians. When their sense of security will crumble, they will not carefully drive through a red light: They will drive through it at high speed. Decent people will stay away from entertainment venues and do everything so that their children won’t get there either.


Ultimately, Tel Aviv will become a “city that never sleeps” only for criminals. I don’t think that is the gift the city wanted for its 100th birthday.


פרסום ראשון: 08.18.09, 21:31
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