The Seventh Circle

There is a synagogue just around the corner from where I live, in the direction of our local shopping centre. On Friday, I went to the Post Office to mail a parcel to my son in the United States. The parcel was in the form of a box, slightly larger than a shoe box. As I made my way down the street on which I live I noticed a man standing at the intersection of the street on which the synagogue is located. He was dressed in civilian clothes but it was obvious to me, by his demeanour, that he was a security guard and the fact that he was in plain clothes made him seem even more threatening. I could see that his eyes were fixed on me; and in particular, on the box that I had tucked under my arm. As I approached, he raised his hand to his lapel, simultaneously lowering his head and whispering something, his eyes still fixed on me. I passed, without incident, and turned the corner to enter the street on which both the synagogue and the Post Office are located. There, across the road, I saw three similarly dressed men, the same baseball caps, the same dark glasses, the same 3-day growth, standing at the entrance to the synagogue; and another, burlier clone at the next intersection on the same side of the road as I was walking. One of the three raised his hand to the side of his head and spoke into his sleeve. The burly man on the next corner echoed this gesture and nodded his head. Six eyes from across the road followed my progress as I continued my journey, drawing closer to the man on the corner who was facing the street but glancing repeatedly in my direction. As I approached him, I was tempted to say “G’day!”, just for the Hell of it, but the stern expression on his face warned me that my safer option would be to avoid eye-contact and continue walking without changing direction or pace. Besides, I had spotted, by then, a sixth guard, across the road, dressed like the others, surveying the scene with the same ambivalence about remaining incognito.

Where I live is a quiet, beachside suburb in a residential area. The locals work hard to preserve its village-like atmosphere. But to me, on that day, it seemed more like a war zone.

What has become of the world when an ordinary citizen cannot walk to the Post Office to mail a package to his son without arousing the suspicion of a rabble of security guards protecting a place of worship where people are congregating to celebrate New Year? And what will it be like next week when the same people assemble to observe the Day of Atonement? Is this how we really want to live our lives? Or is there a better way?

 

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
(Edmund Burke)

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