“Global Day of Jihad” Threats Put Nation On Edge: How to Feel Safer

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • Former Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal called for "Global Day of Jihad" on October 13, 2023.
  • There are currently no explicit, credible threats in the US.
  • City and federal governments are on high alert to monitor and respond to any developments.
  • Schools and business across the US, especially in Jewish, Muslim, and Arab communities may be closed today.

It’s Friday the 13th, the Braves are out of the playoffs, Congress is in chaos, and I got a startling text from my daughter last night. She had to compose an internal comms message to let her company know they’d be closing their NYC offices today in the wake of terrorist threats.

It feels like we “live in the Twilight Zone,” she said.

Indeed.

Sad, frustrated young brunette woman is crying with smartphone in hands while she sitting on the chair at apartment

Image: Povozniuk

My daughter's message was the first I’d heard of terrorist threats against the US this week. A quick Google search revealed a cacophony of reports from LA to NYC about a former Hamas leader calling for a “Global Day of Jihad.”

As someone who lives and breathes safety, studies crime and security trends, and has a mission to help us all live safer lives at home and in our communities, I don’t get rattled easily.

But I’ve been on edge since news of the horrific attack in Israel last Saturday—an attack that led to swift and devastating retaliation and a terrifying, all-out war. Now, in the face of terrorist threats being met with warnings to stay alert and office and school closures, I’m officially rattled.

How credible are the “Global Day of Jihad” threats?

All reports I’ve read, including some official government memos I was able to see, emphasize that there have been no specific, credible threats against any US city or any explicit community, school, or organization.

Still, Jewish communities, and Americans in general, are taking precautions. Being under threat—credible or not—takes a toll.

What is the US doing about the threats?

The threat has prompted a preemptive response by local law enforcement agencies, US officials, and the FBI, which are closely monitoring the situation to prevent potential threats or disruptions. Police presence has been increased in major cities from coast to coast, and some schools and businesses have opted to close today. Here are some notable responses across the country:

  • New York City: Law enforcement agencies, including the police, have increased their readiness for potential events on October 13. All sworn police officers are on duty and prepared to respond. Their focus includes monitoring public and private religious schools and houses of worship in Jewish neighborhoods.
  • Washington, DC: The US Capitol Police have announced enhancing security measures throughout the Capitol Complex. However, due to security concerns, specific details of these measures have yet to be disclosed.
  • Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Police Department is intensifying its efforts to identify and assess potential threats, particularly in communities associated with Muslims and Jews.
  • Florida: Congressman Matt Gaetz has publicly declared that Americans in Florida will remain armed and resolute, refusing to be intimidated. On top of Rep. Gaetz’s call to arms, law enforcement agencies in South Florida and the Treasure Coast are bolstering security measures at places of worship and certain schools today.
  • Portland, OR: The Portland Police Bureau is calling for additional resources to remain on alert and available for any non-peaceful protests or other actions that may develop. The Bureau also emphasized safeguarding First Amendment rights and the” long-standing tradition of exercising free speech and assembly in the City of Portland.”

How can we feel safe during a time like this?

It’s easy to get caught up in scary headlines and the constant bombardment of information on our phones, computers, TVs, and social media networks. While staying informed is vital, it’s also important to temper the volume and frequency of the news we take in.

Over my years of watching and studying unsettling news about crime, mass shootings, police shootings, civil unrest, cybercrime, and other safety-related issues, I’ve had to learn how to engage with this news without it consuming my life, my spirit, and my ability to live without fear.

Here are a few things I do to maintain a balance between how bad the world seems and how bad it really is.

Set boundaries around news consumption

After 9/11, I couldn’t stop watching the news, reading reports, and listening to the harrowing stories of survivors, mourners, and rescue workers. I fell into a depression. To find my way back, I quit all news cold turkey. A difficult choice for a former journalist. But it saved me. Now, I enforce strict guidelines about when and how I consume news.

  • Use screen time limits on your devices to restrict headline scrolling, social media browsing, and other activities that can pull you into that dark rabbit hole of news overwhelm.
  • Check the news sources you rely on. Avoid going to social media as your main source. News shared through the lens of friends, family, celebrities, and influencers can be designed to get your clicks. That means social media news is often more sensationalized than other news sources and often highlights the most alarming information.
  • Find the good news. It’s not all gloom and doom. We need balance. Find sources of information that share feel-good stories that make you smile and feel better.

Get all the facts

One of the biggest things I’ve learned is how out of sync our perceptions can be compared to reality. Every year, in our State of Safety survey, we ask Americans how safe they feel and if they think crime is increasing or decreasing. Overwhelmingly, Americans think crime is on the rise. But the truth is that property crime has been on a steady decline for nearly 30 years, and violent crime has only seen minimal bumps over a couple of years in that same time frame.

The takeaway? Balance those sensationalized and worrisome reports you see with the facts behind them. Things like mass shootings and kidnappings are terrible, but they aren’t as common as it seems. These are outlier events—that’s why they still warrant headlines and grab our attention.

Talk about it

The easiest way to spiral into a paralysis of anxiety is to keep your fears and concerns to yourself. Whether talking to friends and family or seeing a professional counselor or therapist, taking those thoughts out of your head helps you put them in perspective. It also enables you to let them go.

Get involved

One of the best ways to feel safer is to be proactive. There’s not much we can do about existential threats from global extremists. Still, there’s a lot we can do about tangible threats like food insecurity, homelessness, illiteracy, and other real deficiencies we see all around us every day.

  • Find a cause that speaks to you, seek out an organization or group dedicated to that cause, and sign up to volunteer. Engaging with others who care about the same things while working to make a difference can go a long way to boosting your sense of security.
  • Connect spiritually. No matter your beliefs, connecting to something bigger than ourselves is comforting, freeing, and strengthening. Whether it’s prayer, meditation, or walks in nature, find a way to tap into a greater force. And if you find others to join you, even better.
  • Start moving. Physical activity is a great way to get out of our heads. You don’t have to run a marathon to get the benefits of endorphins and regular exercise. Dance around the house with your kids, work in the yard, walk the dog, or coach a youth sports team. It doesn’t really matter what you do as long as you jump in body and soul. It’s so fulfilling to feel exhausted after exertion—and there’s no room left to dwell on all the “what-ifs” out there.
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Rebecca Edwards
Written by
Rebecca Edwards
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past decade. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month poring over crime and safety reports and spotting trends. Her expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her expert advice and analysis in places like NPR, TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, HGTV, MSN, Reader's Digest, Real Simple, and an ever-growing library of podcast, radio and TV clips in the US and abroad.

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