Everyday life in an extraordinary place.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earning Our Trust

This Postcard from Israel was originally written on 20 June 2005.

Earlier this month, our local elementary school hosted a very special event designed to educate the students about the Israel Police. Called Yom Kehilla v'Mishtara (Community and Law Enforcement Day), the program featured many different police units, and even the fire department. Students got to sit in patrol cars (and hit the siren!), see the tools used by crime scene investigators, and watch a bomb-detonating robot go through its paces. They learned what the Border Police does, and how many languages the members of the special tourist force speak (the list even includes Chinese). Beyond that, the children learned an important lesson about committment to the community.

Pictured above is the remote-controlled robot used by the police to detonate bombs. Equipped with video camera, shotgun, and various other tools, the robot is brought onto the scene when a suspicious article is found in a public place. A friend's son once left his schoolbag unattended; the bag now sports quite a few bullet holes! There is a reason for all those signs in places like restaurants, warning patrons to keep their bags with them at all times.

ZAKA is a humanitarian organization made up of volunteers who are trained by the police in emergency health services and forensics. While not affiliated with the police officially, ZAKA volunteers work hand in hand with the Israel Police at the scene of fatal traffic accidents, disasters, and terrorist attacks. In the picture above, a volunteer demonstrates how he prepares to do his work.

The Israel Police puts on many such special community events, in order to educate the public about the work our law enforcement officials do. This Community and Law Enforcement Day was organized by teacher Tali Dahan who, in addition to her regular duties at the school, is responsible for traffic safety education. She and a student committee of approximately 30 students (2nd through 6th graders) planned and coordinated the day's events. According to Tali, the purpose of the day was two-fold. The first goal was to bring the children in contact with the police in order to gain a better understanding of the ways the police serve and protect the public. By meeting and talking with individual officers, the children came to see them as people who can help and protect them in times of trouble. The second goal was to convey to the students the concepts of good citizenship habits and service to the community. According to the feedback Tali and the other teachers received from students later, both goals were achieved.

Particularly because these children are of elementary school age, emphasis was placed on road safety. With the advent of summer vacation, children will be out on the streets in force: walking, biking, skateboarding, and skating. Tali and her committee were particularly interested in making sure the children were aware of how to enjoy their summer activities safely. This in turn connected back to Community and Law Enforcement Day, as the students learned the ways in which the police are available to help them.

The entire day's program was beautifully planned and well-executed. I was particularly impressed that the various police officers took the time to come and educate this youthful sector of the public. By visiting the website for the Israel Police, I learned that their motto is "We earn your trust. We provide the service. We grant the security." And they do.

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