New York Salutes Israel

Last Sunday, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers embraced the state of Israel with a passionate self-identification rarely shown in the 38-year history of the march. But there was a solemnity and self-knowledge suffusing the usual joy roaring down Fifth Avenue-along with the usual raucous disagreement within the Jewish community itself-for the very well-being of Israel seemed at stake in a way that New Yorkers and all Americans suddenly understood.

Never in the 54 years since Israel was founded have the dual fates of the nations been so closely matched. The thousands who poured along Fifth Avenue were there with the understanding that Americans and Israelis, victims of kindred assaults, have more than ever become entwined, assaulted for their very morality, freedom and love of life.

And both have been driven to strong action in defense of those principles.

Suddenly, as would have been inconceivable a few years ago, the well-being of each nation is under siege. Just as Al Qaeda leaders gleefully sought the downfall of the United States last autumn, Palestinian terrorists have appropriated the world’s anti-Semitism not to demand a Palestinian state, but rather to blatantly question the very right of Israel’s existence. One Hamas leader assured The New York Times he was not joking recently when he suggested, “There are a lot of open areas in the United States that could absorb the Jews.” The Palestinian terrorists gained the taste of blood-and, they believed, a victory-with every bombing. Suddenly, the United States and the state of Israel were thrown into startlingly similar plights: the very protection of their citizens.

That was implicit yesterday. Beneath the exaltation celebrating the 54th anniversary of Israeli statehood-politically, morally, technologically, one of the great achievements in the history of nations-was a sense of embattlement. Within the last year, the well-being of two narrow strips of land-Manhattan and Israel-has come under assault. And both have been taught once more the need for strong action and the price of liberty.

A few years ago, the crowds in the Israel Parade began to wane as the middle-aged state seemed more and more a given, a fact of the modern age, even as it continued to endure the scorn and assaults of those who questioned its very existence. As a hundred thousand New Yorkers marched beneath a sky so blue it seemed to dip down and paint the borders and Stars of David on the thousands of Israeli flags, it was almost impossible not to think of that most fundamental of instructions for Americans and Jews alike: l’chaim -to life. And the city once more reaffirmed its special affinity for Israel, a kindred place born from the moral imperative of a world attempting to right the great moral wrong of our time, founded to be, as David Ben-Gurion said, “a light among nations.”

Zero Tolerance In Times Square

There was no better symbol of New York’s revival during the 1990′s than Times Square, which was transformed from a filthy and dangerous piece of urban no man’s land into a sparkling and safe-yes, safe-magnet for tourists and native New Yorkers alike. Twenty years ago, businesses were fleeing the area; by 1997, businesses were begging for a Times Square address.

It’s clear that Police Commissioner Ray Kelly understands the importance of Times Square’s continued prosperity. At a time when the neighborhood was beginning to show signs of slipping back to the bad old days, Mr. Kelly announced the deployment of additional uniformed and undercover cops to Times Square.

Operation Neon Lights, as the police have dubbed the redeployment, will also focus on the Port Authority Bus Terminal, another institution that was changed for the better in the 1990′s. Anecdotal evidence gathered in recent months suggests that prostitutes and drug-addled petty criminals were beginning to return to their old haunts, perhaps thinking that Rudolph Giuliani’s departure as Mayor meant an end to tough, smart policing.

Clearly they’ve miscalculated. Mr. Kelly is both tough and smart, even if his style is quite a bit different from, say, former Commissioner Bill Bratton’s. Mr. Kelly is not as combative, and not as much of a presence in the press. But he is no more tolerant of antisocial and criminal behavior than his more storied predecessor.

In the continued aftermath of Sept. 11, it is critical that New York retain its hard-won reputation as the safest big city in America. It’s clear that Mr. Kelly not only understands this, but intends to act accordingly.

Teens, Sex and Self-Esteem

When do teenagers become sexually active? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics indicates that teens’ sexual behavior is highly influenced by their self-esteem. But as in most things, boys and girls parted ways: Among teen boys, the higher their self-esteem, the greater the chance they were sexually active. Among teen girls, a high sense of self-worth tended to correlate with an absence of sexual activity. “I think we were a little surprised at how clear the effect was,” said Dr. Gregory D. Zimet, a pediatrics professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

The researchers followed 188 students in Indiana from seventh grade, when all were virgins, to ninth grade. They found that boys with high self-esteem were two and a half times more likely to have had sex than boys with low-self esteem. Girls with high self-esteem were three times as likely to have abstained from sex as girls with low self-esteem. The teens’ self-worth seemed to be more of a determining factor of sexual activity than even their age or level of physical development.

What lessons can parents take from this? After all, instilling a solid sense of self-esteem is a prime goal of many parents. But are they turning their sons into pint-sized Lotharios? At least they can rest easy that their stubborn, impudent daughters are waiting before they leap.