It’s not by chance that a group of Jewish cops who went to Israel earlier this month returned on Sept. 11.
"We chose that date purposely," says Detective Sam Miller, president of the Shomrim Society, the organization of Jewish police officers. "We wanted to show that we weren’t intimidated, weren’t afraid to fly on that date."
Many of the members were no strangers to danger, having served in some of the city’s toughest precincts and, in one case, as an FBI agent. Miller is currently a hostage negotiator.
While in Israel, members of the group rode along with counterparts in Tel Aviv on the same day twin suicide blasts killed 15 in that city and in Jerusalem.
"We heard the broadcast over the [police] radio about the bombing in Jerusalem," says Miller. "Without hesitation, the civil patrol members we were riding with went to set up roadblocks."
Some of the visitors found themselves at the Tel Aviv bus depot with counterparts who searched for suspicious packages that night. "We were there mostly for moral support, although we could have done the job," says Miller.
Solidarity missions to Israel were once an annual Shomrim activity, but the trips trailed off in recent years. Miller is hoping to get them back on track.
This year’s roster of 23 participants included not only current NYPD officers and retirees but representatives from brother organizations as close as Nassau County and as far as Florida and Georgia. Also on board was Monsignor Edward James Dillon of Atlanta, who accompanied Art Krinsky, the former FBI agent and a vice president of the National Council of Shomrim Societies. Krinsky is now an FBI instructor in Georgia.
The group was escorted by Mel Parness, executive director of Bnai Zion, who helped organize the agenda, setting up meetings with Israeli police and government officials.
One highlight was a tour of the security fence Israel is building to separate its population centers from Arab areas. "When you see it, you realize that the fence will be as necessary when there is peace between Israel and the Palestinians as it is now," said Murray Elman, a retired patrolman who served in the famous "Fort Apache" precinct in the South Bronx. "You have to keep the terrorists from crossing over. When you see how close the lines are, you see itís an absolute necessity."
Despite the bomb blasts during their visit, Elman, who retired in 1987 after 20 years, said he took his cue from the Israeli people and carried on as close as possible to normal. "Life goes on," he said. "When I went to visit family in Tel Aviv, the bus was crowded. You check the people out, but when the bus goes, you close your eyes and go to sleep."