By: Rafi Press  | 

Unpack With YUPAC: A New Idea for Israeli Security

Just last week, the Jewish community was shaken by the news of a massacre of seven Israelis in Neve Yaakov, a neighborhood of Jerusalem. We’re all used to seeing news of terror attacks on a weekly basis, however, an attack of this magnitude has not been seen in years, and is a scary reminder of how fragile security is in Israel. 

Over the past few years, after every such attack, the Israeli government promises new measures to deter future terrorists; these include home demolitions, withholding of aid, airstrikes and more. These don’t seem to be working as well as was hoped, however. Israel’s most successful deterrence against terror attacks came in 2005, when it completed its West Bank security barrier, effectively ending the wave of suicide bombings. But the Neve Yaakov massacre was a reminder that Israel needs to do more to protect its people. 

The deadly attack in Neve Yaakov is quite a contrast to an incident that occurred the very next day, just a few miles away, in Ir David. In that incident, which occurred on Shabbos, a young Palestinian teenager began shooting at Jews walking by, wounding three. Within seconds, the assailant was shot by one of the Jews, neutralizing the threat. The Jews in Ir David, who are prone to constant provocations from Palestinians, commonly carry guns, and on that Shabbos this proved vital.

After last week’s attacks, National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir announced his intent to increase gun ownership in Israel. He promised to speed up the interview process for gun licenses as well as double the number of employees at the Firearms Licensing Division. 

“I want more weapons on the streets so that the citizens of Israel can defend themselves,” he said. 

Ben Gvir’s proposal came just days after a confrontation at the scene of the Neve Yaakov attack, where an unidentified distraught survivor approached Ben Gvir, complaining “If I had been armed I could have prevented three or four deaths. I’m not armed. They won’t let me have a weapon.”

This notion of more gun owners in Israeli society may be worrying to many Americans. After all, here in the U.S., mass shootings and gun accidents are all too common. The idea of guns being more easily attainable doesn’t sound like the solution. But the situation in Israel is completely different. An extremely high percentage of Israelis are already trained in how to safely handle guns due to their army service. In addition, Israelis are under constant threat of attack every day, which is not the case for most of America. While in America it would be questionable, the pros seem to outweigh the cons for Israelis. 

Yet many of us who travel to Israel feel there are already plenty of guns on the streets; many places in Israel that the typical American tourist visits have significant numbers of armed Israelis. So, we might ask, can even more guns really be the answer? However, that’s not the reality in most of the country: only 153,000 Israelis are approved license holders, or 1.7% of the population. Almost all of the country, including the inhabitants of Neve Yaakov, are unarmed.

So are these new changes to gun ownership the answer to curbing deaths by terrorism in Israel? There’s no way to know yet what effect they will have. If we learn from history, though, one thing is certain: there will continue to be terror attacks. The hope is that with these planned changes, more of them will be like Ir David than Neve Yaakov. 

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Photo Caption: The site of the Neve Yaakov shooting

Photo Credit: Israel Police via Wikimedia Commons