My gun is my barometer. It has been in my possession for 37 years. Most of the time it rests securely in my safe, taken out only when I need to pass my re-certification, or to be put in secure storage in a gun store when I travel overseas. It is my barometer, for every few years I feel the need to carry it on me (for which I have a permit). Every few years my sense of safety and that of my family and my fellow citizens is undermined, as the streets on which we walk and live become the frontlines. It is my barometer for the moment when I no longer know if the person with whom I share these streets is there to pursue a normal life or to pursue me and those around me.
I hate my gun, but I am grateful for it too. I don’t feel that I have a constitutional right to bear arms, and my gun is not meant to protect my civil liberties from a tyrannical, abusive government. I do feel, however, that I have an inalienable right to live and to do what is necessary to defend myself, my family, and those around me from those who desire to murder us.
I hate my gun, because I don’t want to live in a world in which everyday citizens need to be responsible for their own safety. I hate my gun, because my life’s work as a teacher and rabbi is geared to fostering kindness, decency, mutual respect, and hope. I hate my gun, because it reminds me that my family is not safe and my life’s work is far from realization. There is no part in my soul which wants to harm another human being. There is no part in my soul which wants to see an other as an enemy. The opposite is the case. I am an unrepentant optimist who believes in the inherent decency of humankind and in the possibility of peace and rapprochement between Israel and our Palestinian neighbors.
I believe that there is nothing inherently flawed in Judaism or Islam which forces us to be at war with each other. I believe the opposite to be the case, and a significant portion of my work is to develop new levels of understanding, respect, and learning to and from each other. I hate my gun.
I am grateful for my gun. I hate that I need it, but I am grateful for the fact that when I do, I have the ability to carry it. I hate the fact that the people I love are in danger, but I love the fact that neither I nor my people are helpless victims anymore. I love the gift of Israel, that if and when I need it, I do not merely have the right but the ability to protect myself.
I know that my gun is not the answer. I know that my gun alone will not give me the safety and security for which I yearn. I know that my gun is dangerous. I know that it can delude me into a false sense of power, wherein as long as my gun is bigger the status quo is sustainable. As long as my gun is bigger, I don’t have to take chances for peace. I know that my gun can blind me to the feelings and rights of others. It can make me acutely sensitive to my security needs without any reciprocal sensitivity to the needs of others. I fear my gun and what it can do to me and my people.
I need my gun. I know that the occupation has gone on for too long. I know that an occupation is justified only to the extent that one does everything in one’s power to bring it to an end, and I don’t believe we have done so. I don’t believe that we have done everything in our power to make the lives of the Palestinian people as free, safe, and prosperous as their rights as human beings demand. Is our failure the cause for the recent stabbings and murders? I believe that the perpetrators of evil are the ones who bear primary responsibility for their actions, and the murder of civilians as they sit in buses and walk the streets of their cities is nothing short of evil. We Israelis must take responsibility for our moral failures and do everything in our power to rectify them; however, the responsibility for terrorism lies within the terrorist and the society which glorifies it. As long as they do, I need my gun.
My gun is my barometer, and today I am walking with my gun. I read the lies of the so-called plot of the Jews to destroy al-Aqsa and am saddened at the ease with which my neighbors can be rallied to kill and be killed to “redeem” it with blood. I am saddened that my neighbors ennoble and glorify anyone who murders my fellow citizens and grant them and their families’ financial rewards far in excess of what they could ever have dreamed of earning peacefully. I am saddened when instead of taking responsibility for children who have chosen the path of murder, they lie to themselves and transform these children into innocent victims.
I dream of two peoples living side by side in peace and security. I know that there is much that I and my people have done to undermine this dream. But I also know that too many within Palestinian society have yet to truly accept that this is my home too, and have yet to make the strategic commitment to peaceful coexistence between us. There is no political solution on the near horizon, and whether there will be one in the more distant future at all, will require much work and transformation on both sides. I fear that the current reality will only weaken our will to even explore such fantasies, let alone contemplate steps to even allow it to be put back on the table. I still live with hope and continue my life’s work to create a better future, but until that day comes, sadly and tragically, from time to time, I will carry my gun.