Defending Yourself During A Terrorist Attack



(by Davide Frattini, Middle East Correspondent for Corriere della Sera)
In Tel Aviv, I often go for a stroll around the Carmel Market District. The stalls selling gro-cery or fruit, bread or Halva (middle eastern sesame dessert) lean on Iron cubes now co-vered with rust, nice and tight. ‘It is a great spot to dive in and find shelter’ I had to ex-plain, and wanted to explain, to my 12 years old daughter. Together, we use to watch Ele-mentary, a TV series about the adventures of a contemporary Sherlock Holmes, who mo-ved to New York. An episode helped me explaining her the difference between being a victim and becoming a survivor. When somebody starts shooting – should somebody start shooting – around you, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed. As Carlo Biffani writes, it is possible to put in place several strategies that may allow us to stay alive in a critical situation. First and foremost, I believe, is being vigilant, even if it may introduce tension as a constant companion in our lives. In Israel, a certain amount of paranoia is almost ine-vitable, the amygdala grows like a muscle after frequent use. The ‘fight or flight’ mode is there, ready to step in. It is important to be aware when moving knowing that surprise hits everybody, civilians or soldiers, with conflict experience. As a journalist I followed American troops in Afghanistan, especially in summer 2010, during the offensive against the Taliban. One day the patrol I was moving with got caught in an ambush: the first shots encumber movements, as if bullets were pressing the slowmotion key of a day that was normal, up to that moment. Soldiers don’t seem to believe it yet, the heaviest series of machine-gun shots kicks off automated behaviors. The initial shock is natural, it can on-ly last some fractions of a second, though: it is fundamental not to get immobilized by fear.

Let instead the thought ‘yes, this is really happening to me‘ have the upper hand. Shock is like a tsunami. It overflows everything, even 101st division officers, but then you need to react: I instinctively got to the ground and from there I crawled into a drain pipe.
The brown waste water promising anyway much more health than staying exposed to enemy fire. Europe is not Afghanistan for sure, and neither it is Israel, where attacks are much more frequent: since October 2015 attacks have been perpetrated mostly by what secret services call ‘lone wolves’. Young Palestinians setting down their plan in the dark of their rooms, then going out with a knife they found in the kitchen or using a car as a weapon to hit pedestrians. The impact might seem lesser than an assault in the heart of Paris or Berlin, yet the rate, almost daily in certain periods, amplifies the effect. Last year in Tel Aviv, it was June the eighth, two Arabs – state prosecutor says they were inspired by the Islamic State – opened fire on the customers of a well known shopping mall, killing four. The night after, the streets were crowded with people: it’s not a matter of reckles-sness. Israel people know well that life must go on, and they have strengthened their de-fense strategies throughout the years. And I mean the personal ones, the ones we all, un-fortunately, have to train in these times.



Biffani C., Defending Yourself During a Terrorist Attack, in ‘Urgency’, DOI: 10.576 58/389-410; N. 1, 2023, 389-410.

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