Keeping secure

When I once told a friend that I have to pay a security levy so that my children can be protected within their Jewish school they were amazed.  “I can imagine that in other Countries, but surely not in Australia” was the response.  When I went on to tell her that every Synagogue in Australia has to place security teams outside during all services, and that every publicly advertised Jewish event has to take into account the safety and protection of those attending, she was totally gobsmacked.  The next question was “Is it really necessary?”  The answer to that question is that each year several hundred “anti-semitic incidents” are logged, and many more remain unreported.  Given the seriousness of some incidents, and the reality of racial intolerance, sadly vigilence is needed.

There is an interesting article in the Australian, which, given its importance, I have reproduced in the first comment to this post.

The article draws attention to this unknown burden and expense that our small community incurs in an effort to stay safe.  However there is less to be said about the way in which the journalists framed this article for presentation, and more to be said about the blend of reader response comments that sit under the article.  There is a mix of rational and redneck reactions, and on the whole it shows that so much more needs to be done to make the Australian community aware of the role and ambitions of the small Jewish community that sits within this country.  I refer to comments such as:

  • “dont expect money to support your exclusionist ideas”
  • “if the muslims and jews were a bit more tolerant and open and would perhaps meet the rest of us half way…”
  • “ EVERY Jew i have known has gone to a jewish school! Why do jewish people feel this need?”
  • “your schools practice exclusion and descrimination which is illegal here”
  • “The irony of this situation is that Jews and Muslims are at risk from attacks by one another, not by Australians, yet it is the Australian tax-payer who foots the bill for the security…”
  • “I am surprised we have Jewish, Muslim, etc , schools in Australia at all. If they want to come over and live in Australia then they should be mixing with the other children….”
  • “ I don’t think Islamic or Jewish schools are any more vulnerable to attacks and damage than any other school in Australia.”
  • “I’m sorry but there have been so many more documented racial attacks on school children of other religions (muslim, catholic, hindu etc.) compared to Jews. Drive down Hotham St (in Caulfield, Melbourne) and you’ll already see security guards out the front of all the major Jewish schools. You think they’ve ever had to do a thing in their working lives? But now we taxpayers are footing a racist $20M bill for Jewish security?”

The anonyminity of the internet allows prejudice to fester, and it highlights that there is much to be done by the Jewish community to make us understood – who we are as a people, what we represent to the society in which we live, why we wish to retain our cultural identity, how we integrate, what our non-imposed religious beliefs are, and why we love living in Australia as proud Australians. 

As far as the ASIO security issue is concerned, a funding committment of $20 million will help protect school gates, but it will not help change societal attitudes. 

Parents of children at Jewish schools invest (sacrifice) a lot for the sake of their children.  It costs between $10,000 and $20,000 per child to have Jewish education, and about 9,000 Australian children go to private Jewish day schools.  We don’t mind paying for their tuition, that is our committment.  But why should we also pay for their security when it is no fault of our own that we are Jewish and under threat?  Do we as taxpayers not have the right to be safe?  Like all social issues, resources are directed where they are needed, and in this case they sorely and sadly are. 

It should also be noted that $20 million is nothing compared to the amount of money that Australia commits to offshore programs.  Like the $45 million just given to the Palestinian Authority by the Australian Government.  So long as that money is given without the real committment to recognise and accept the existance of Israel, that money is being used to to purchase more terrorism on Israel’s borders.  But I digress.

This is 2008, and we live in a world that is far from ideal.  There are real threats, real problems, and it is good to know that our Government agencies are doing something to reduce the security threat.  Reading the online comments, it is encouraging to note that most people seem to understand that.  However it is not at all reassuring that so many people have selfish, prejudiced, intolerant and divisive views about protecting Australian children.

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