ANALYSIS: Why numbers don’t tell the whole story

ANALYSIS: Why numbers don’t tell the whole story

The aftermath of a terror attack in Israel
The aftermath of a terror attack in Israel

By Simi Ben Hur Executive Director, Shaare Zedek UK 

Shaare Zedek UK's Sim Ben-hur
Shaare Zedek UK’s Sim Ben-hur

“Why are you going to Jerusalem when everyone else is leaving?” asked my taxi driver. It was a question others back home had also asked me when I said I was flying to Israel as news broke of a spate of terror attacks. A week later, with the number of attacks increasing, I’m relieved to be home but glad I made the trip.

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There was nowhere more emotional for me to be as violence erupted than the Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem. I was visiting the hospital to celebrate with supporters who have dedicated departments in the new Children’s Hospital. As we raised a glass to toast a l’chaim, we were told that a young man had been stabbed and was being brought into the hospital for emergency surgery in the very department we had been toasting to moments before.

It was a sobering moment where I silently hoped our toast “to life” would be answered.

Six hours later, the young man was out of surgery and was able to move and communicate with his family with no further threat to his life.

This is a story I took pride in sharing with the doctors, unaware of how many more miracles they would need to deliver over the course of the week. The reality of life in Jerusalem.

Whenever news breaks of such events in Israel, there seems to be a pattern to many of our reactions to it. We hope our loved ones are safe. We feel a range of emotions between anger and sadness about the violence before wondering what else is to come and what practical answers exist to the question: ‘When will this all end?’.

We then turn to frustration at the lack of news coverage and anger at the predictably inaccurate headlines that do make it into the international press. Israelis I spoke to do not expect their news to dominate international headlines beyond such events in other countries around the world – but only ask for a fair reflection of events.

Most news reports devalue the lives of those killed and injured by reducing them to a set of numbers, pitted against a Palestinian death toll to create a newsworthy headline.

The numbers do not tell the story; the people do. The Talmud teaches us that if we save a life, it is as if we have saved the entire world. Let us take inspiration from the stories of the lives of doctors, nurses, soldiers and civilians who are on the front line of the fight against terror and let them be our story.

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