The streets of Beirut have felt more dangerous the past few weeks. People are nervous. Every car looks suspicious. Everyone is anxiously wondering when and where the next one will be.
But the reality is, you could be in Boston, London or Beirut when a bomb goes off. Here in Lebanon, there is a higher chance of being injured in a car accident than by a car bomb.
But I’m not afraid to walk the streets of London. Up until the new year, I’ve never been afraid to walk the streets of Beirut either. I think a huge part of that is the perception of danger. Is it actually more dangerous to be in Beirut right now? I don’t know. But I do know that it feels more dangerous than it has since we moved here five years ago. That feeling is powerful. Even if it’s not at all based in reality, it is still very powerful.
Case in point: last week, the ISF asked people who were parking their cars in unmarked spaces to leave a note with their name and number on the dashboard. The idea is if the car appears suspicious, the owners can be called before a window is smashed to make sure there is nothing dangerous inside.
Last week as I was walking to work, I noticed that nearly every car on our street had a phone number on the dash. Some were just a name and number scribbled on a piece of scratch paper, but others had taken the time to print out a list with all their contact information – home, cell, work, etc.
Oddly enough, just seeing those numbers on the dash of every car I walk by made me feel safer. I know, I know, they don’t actually protect me from anything. But there is something comforting about the whole neighborhood doing what they can to help people feel safe. For me at least, that’s more than half the battle.