Eylon Levy
Israeli Government Spokesman

Israel: Teach Europe’s Jews Krav Maga

Anti-Semitism? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

On Saturday, four people were shot dead at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, and two Jews were attacked leaving synagogue in Paris. This was the tip of the iceberg: three-quarters of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe don’t even reach the police, let alone the headlines.

On Sunday, Europe elected its most xenophobic Parliament to date: the Greek Nazis took 10% of their country’s vote, and the Hungarian Nazis took 15% of their country’s vote too. The Front National won a staggering quarter of the French vote. It goes on.

The extreme right is still a small minority in the European Parliament. But the floodgates have been breached. France has fallen.

Clearly, the situation in Europe is not good. The world’s second largest diaspora feels increasingly unsafe. According to the European Union itself, 29% of Europe’s Jews have considered packing up and leaving out of concern for their physical security. This cannot go on.

Natan Sharansky has announced that the Jewish Agency, which he heads, intends to invest “considerable sums” in helping European Jews “provide for their physical security”. But before he announces funding for more security guards, barbed-wire fences and CCTV cameras, he should consider a more innovative proposal – and one that Diaspora Minister Naftali “Sayeret Matkal” Bennett would probably favour:

The State of Israel should deliver free, or subsidised, lessons in Krav Maga to the Jews of Europe.

Krava Maga is the Jewish karate. It equips one to fend off physical attacks with maximum efficiency, and thereby neutralise threats. Martial arts are a sport; Krav Maga is the art of self-defence, designed to secure survival against surprise assaults, with no mercy.

This is a skill that Israel should impart to Europe’s Jews.

Firstly, it would help to keep them safe. Krav Maga might be no use against kalashnikov rifles, but one doubts whether Jews empowered to challenge their attackers will be tasered to the ground by thugs, will have their noses broken and swastikas drawn on their chests, or will be savagely beaten on the Metro. At least not without a fight.

(Yes, these things have really happened. In Paris. In the last year.)

Secondly, it would boost their morale and self-confidence. This fear is psychological: it stems from the joint perceptions of a threat and a powerlessness to resist it. The ability to knock attackers to the ground would give European Jews the confidence to hold their kippa-clad heads up high, safe in the knowledge that they can protect themselves and their families from skinheads and Islamist street thugs.

Thirdly it would embarrass European governments into getting a grip and internalising the extent of anti-Semitism on the continent. When a foreign government announces that it has such little faith in its neighbours’ competence in law and order that it will extend humanitarian aid to their people to protect them from racist violence, a country cannot help but treat the issue as a priority.

Israel has absorbed enough self-righteous criticism from the nations of Europe that it would be eminently fitting for it to turn the tables: to take Europe to task with that selfsame sense of indignation and outrage.

Naysayers may fear that such an initiative would fuel further anti-Semitism by entrenching a perception of Europe’s Jews as the Other, as disloyal citizens working in lockstep with the nefarious Zionists. But if that is how Jewish participation in self-defence classes would be perceived, I would rather know sooner rather than later: the bigoted backlash would be a symptom of an existing hostility, and if this could yet be set off by another trigger, we should at least be prepared.

It is in Israel’s interest for the European Diaspora to flourish, rather than make aliyah en masse. Israel is increasingly the victim of double standards in policy, unfair coverage in the press and calls for boycotts in public. It needs the Jews of Europe to speak up in defence of this beleaguered state, as just about the only demographic willing to do so.

Moreover, the hostility of its immediate neighbourhood means that Israel has a supreme interest in open, tolerant, liberal and democratic governance in its adopted neighbourhood and regional allies. A Judenrein Europe would be an unfathomably nastier place, making for a much more toxic international environment for the Jewish state.

The motivating spirit of Zionism has always been to liberate Jews from danger by empowering them to protect themselves, and to be effective in self-reliance if the goodwill of the gentiles wanes. That spirit needs to roll across the Mediterranean on the Sirocco wind and breathe life and vigour into European Jewry. Do it.

About the Author
Eylon Levy is an Israeli government spokesman in the October 7 War and host of the State of a Nation podcast. He previously served as international media adviser to President Isaac Herzog after a career television news anchor. He holds degrees from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Blogs from before the October 7 Massacre are in a strictly private capacity.