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Day 21 of the war: Guns and the wild East

After the shock of October 7th, thousands of people in Israel have applied for gun permits, alluding to the famous Holocaust saying: “I won’t go like a lamb to the slaughter.” It hasn’t started just three weeks ago. When this government was formed, and Netanyahu created a coalition with extremists, he appointed a former Jewish terrorist to the position of the Minister of Internal Security. This man, a settler in an extremist community, and his wife are always seen walking around with exposed guns. Sometimes he even takes his weapon out and makes threatening gestures. At a gathering of the wives of the new government’s ministers, it was impossible to ignore the strange sight of a woman openly carrying a gun at a social event with other women. It is reminiscent of the Wild West, or in the case of Israel, “the wild east.”

People who are familiar with the United States are well aware of the dangers of loosening gun license regulations. As a child growing up in this country, I hardly ever saw guns. Yes, later on in the army, we had to learn how to shoot, but as I was a teacher soldier, after basic training I never had to see a gun again.

When we lived in the US, in a small town outside Fort Worth, Texas, I became more aware of the dangers of guns. However, as a mother, it never occurred to me that it could be something that could endanger the lives of my daughters. It took a few more years for me to understand how naive I was. In 1999, when were already back in Israel, I read a short essay with my students by the researcher and psychologist Marjorie Hardy. The essay was titled “Would Your Child Pick Up A Gun? Don’t Kid Yourself” (International Herald Tribune May 20, 1999). In this essay, Hardy describes experiments where children, aged 4 to 7, including her son, were educated about the dangers of guns. Based on these experiments, Hardy concluded that children do play with guns. In her closing sentence of the essay, she answers the question posed in the title: “Would your child touch a gun? Mine did. Then he lied about it when asked. Thank goodness it wasn’t loaded.” 

My students were disturbed by this essay, perhaps because they too did not grow up  around guns. I showed the essay to one of  my daughters, and for the first time in my life, I heard from her that when we lived in Texas, she was at a sleepover with her friend who showed her where her father’s gun was hidden, and they both touched it. It never occurred to me to ask the parents of my daughter’s friend if they owned a gun. In the essay, Hardy claims that many people lie about having a gun, but it is crucial information to know before sending your child to a sleepover. I was so lucky that nothing happened.

I suspect that the Minister of Internal Security would like more citizens to have guns, not because he cares about their safety, but because it empowers his extremist voters, especially the settlers. If now, after October 7th, many more people own guns, no one in Israel, especially children, will be safe again. This is not the way to go to restore personal security.

About the Author
I hold a PhD in English Literature from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, specializing in writing about issues related to women, literature, culture, and society. Having lived in the US for 15 years (between 1979-1994), I bring a diverse perspective to my work. As a widow, in March 2016, I initiated a support and growth-oriented Facebook group for widows named "Widows Move On." The group has now grown to over 2000 members, providing a valuable space for mutual support and understanding.
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