Day after miserable day, the toll of deaths and injuries on Israel’s roads grows apace. But you read of them only when the incident is particularly dramatic or they involve a celebrity.
The latest horror saw off two young IDF soldiers: Staff Sergeant Ayman Kayzal (possibly ‘Kayzel Iman’) died outright while Lieutenant Michal Zohar died of later from head injuries.
I feel personally moved by Michal’s passing because her best friend is the granddaughter of one of my lovely new acquaintances in Karmiel.
The incident happened late on Thursday when a truck ploughed into a crowd waiting at a bus station in Acco (‘Acre’). At least 11 others were also hurt in what police believe was a deliberate attack.
“Three more of the injured were in a critical condition and had been transferred to nearby Nahariya for treatment, paramedics said. Police arrested the truck driver, a local father of three aged 45, as he tried to flee the scene in his vehicle, which was halted when security guards from the neighbouring train station fired pistols at the truck's wheels.
The driver later admitted intentionally crashing the truck before refusing to see a lawyer, police said.
“Members of his family who gathered outside the police station where he was being held said he had a history of psychological problems.
“Acco has frequently been a flashpoint for violence between Arab and Jewish communities who share the northern coastal city, and police quickly removed the arrested man from the scene, fearing an outbreak of mob violence.
“But there was no apparent nationalist or racist motive for the attack, which they were not treating as a terror incident, police said. The driver appeared to have been distressed by a family dispute, although it was unclear what what led him to launch the attack”.
The Jerusalem Post reported that the driver was identified as 45-year-old Gabriel Hen whose remand was extended until November 21.
“Police in the North have said Hen, a Jewish resident of Acco told detectives during questioning that he deliberately rammed his truck into the bus stop.
“’The Shin Bet [Israel Security Agency] and the police killed my kid,’ the suspect told police during interrogation, when asked to explain his actions.
“A subsequent police check revealed that the man has two children, both of whom are alive and well. Police said the background to the attack remained unclear.
“After the incident, the driver fled the scene on foot, and got as far as a kilometre before being arrested by police.
“The incident was attended by senior police, including Northern police district head, Commander Shimon Koren who told reporters there that the driver had left a trail of carnage, colliding with vehicles before crashing into a bus stop.
The J.P.’s statistics prove that more than 330 people have been killed on Israel’s roads during 2010 but I’m bound to say that the Israel Ministry of Transport and Road Safety, for all its huffing and puffing, simply doesn’t treat the situation seriously.
I’m forever riding on buses driven recklessly or bad-temperedly. On Motze’i Shabbat (Saturday evening) last weekend our driver into town chatted on his mobile phone for the entire journey while one afternoon this week another driver stopped our bus in the middle of the road to intervene in an altercation among a group of young passengers.
If my own family is any guide, the general feeling is that it’s matter of culture; that terrorism is treated much more seriously than road safety and that the necessary money is not set aside to tackle the issue.
I’m beginning to think they are right. Let’s examine what happened at the Knesset’s “National Day for Personal Responsibility for Road Safety”:
Nurit Grossman of the Anashim Be'Adom action group says – my interpretation – that on the day she and her organisation were treated with disdainful contempt by transport ministers.
Grossman received an Award for a Citizen Advancing Road Safety on behalf of her group but the politicians and civil servants departed after making self-congratulatory, self-aggrandising speeches and before the awards were made!
I quote from her speech at Anashim Be’Adom’s own recent annual conference:
“The reception in the Knesset was very appropriate, but we were disappointed by the ceremony itself. The Minister of Transport and Road Safety, and the Minister of Communications complimented each other and themselves – and then left the hall before the presentations.
“And apparently no time was left for the prize winners to make their speeches. We have sent both our thanks and our recommendations to the National Authority for Road Safety for next year's ceremony, which include holding the awards presentation at the beginning ( it is either a sign of contempt or a lack of respect for the Minister of Transport and Road Safety and other Ministers to leave once they have made their own speeches).
“It is also important for the Ministers at least once a year to hear what the public think of their performance, in particular from those who give much of themselves in the cause of Road Safety”.