I got my gun. It was an understandably painstaking bureaucratic process that I had started and stopped twice before, but this time I saw it all the way through. It took about half a year from start to finish, but here I am – my permit folded carefully in my wallet, and a brand new Glock semi-automatic on my belt.
Privately owning a pistol in Israel is no doubt a great responsibility. And I’ll admit, that sitting here typing with this bulge of nylon-based polymer in it’s leather holster digging into my side after only having the weapon for 24 hours is pretty nerve-wracking. Yes, it’s uncomfortable physically, and it will take some time getting used to, but it’s even more then that.
‘What if it accidentally goes off and I shoot myself in the foot? What if a kid gets his hands on it? What if I need to defend myself and despite the shooting lessons, I miss or worse hit an innocent bystander?’ I’m sure these are all legitimate and normal thoughts that first-time gun owners have until they are comfortable packing heat.
But at the end of the day, because I’m a Jew, live in Israel, and specifically live in Gush Etzion (Judea) it’s worth all of those risks whether real or imaginary. Am I happy or excited to bear arms? No, but as a result of the security situation I feel that it’s the most prudent action I can take as a civilian for my personal protection.
No doubt coming home with a gun yesterday did evoke strong emotions. My first thoughts turned to my family on my father’s side — nearly 100 members, all but four (my grandparents, father, and uncle) wiped out by Nazi sympathizing Ukrainian police during the Holocaust in 1941. If only they were able to properly defend themselves when the evil entered their shtetl and marched them to an adjacent village before torturing and murdering them, dumping their bodies in a mass shallow grave. I’m certain that if they had the weapons, the tragedy might have been prevented.
But this morning, putting on my talit (prayer shawl) and tefillin (phylacteries) before reciting the morning prayers (Shacharit) with a minyan — that’s when I had to fight back the tears. The image I had at that moment in my mind while tying the straps was of one of the victims from last months’ massacre at a Har Nof Synagogue. Draped in his talit and tefillin, there he lay in a pool of his own blood, dead, butchered by Jihadists along with three other worshipers in addition to a Druze policeman who responded to the attack.
If only one or several of those in attendance were armed, the incident could have had a very different ending.
Just to be clear, being armed isn’t foolproof. Plenty of Israelis over the years were murdered while in possession of a weapon. While that is certainly true, I now can go through my day knowing that I’ve done at least the minimum to protect myself. We always say “Never Again.” Now I’ve done my part to make sure that “Never Again” isn’t just an empty slogan.
Josh Hasten is a broadcaster on the new Voice of Israel global radio network based in Jerusalem.