Why I Cried During My Krav Maga Class

When word got out that a Krav Maga class for women was forming with info for sign-up included in the ad, I knew it was for me. It’s well-known that Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers learn Krav Maga techniques at their final training session to prepare, just in case, if they are faced with an extreme situation. Like most immigrants to Israel, I knew what Krav Maga meant, but unlike native Israelis, I didn’t have a clue how to practice this type of self-defense.

Our group of women happened to be a variety of mothers who immigrated to Israel from various other countries. When moving here, none of us imagined we would end up in a self-defense class together, learning to protect ourselves and others around us. But it is part of the insanity of the current situation, coupled with our inner lioness instinct to protect our cubs. We are peace-loving citizens of a land, our homeland, whose citizens have been terrorized since… forever. 

Terrorists aim to kill citizens, not the government, ie. when one country wages war on another country. Hence, the term terrorists; persons who incite terror. And in the case of my classmates and me, we mothers are compelled to take this self-defense course – Krav Maga no less – because we are Jews. Jews are targets, the enemy of a population which seeks to terrorize and murder us in the most sadistic and cruel ways possible, with the attackers becoming crowned “martyrs” for their cause.

It was during Class #3 that the instructor began a unit on implementing Krav Maga if, chas v’shalom, the attacker puts a knife to the civilian’s throat. We had already learned about non-weapon attacks like shoving, wrist grabbing, arm grabbing, even blocking a knife attack in motion. Something in me freaked out (quietly) when the instructor introduced the response when a victim is threatened when the attacker has the blade of the knife poised at the jugular. The instructor had already shown us what to do and now we had to copy the moves.

When she stood in front of me and it was my turn to respond, I forgot what to do. In an attempt to relax me so I could remember how to respond she smiled. And as her hand held the rubber knife, almost resting horizontally over my jugular arch, she asked, “What do you do now?” I silently shook my head “no,” and walked away from the group toward my water bottle on the table. The instructor said, “That’s okay. Take a break.” It would take me more than a minute to pause and rejoin the group; I needed to step away. I retreated to the kitchen of our host’s apartment, leaned on the counter and cried. I cried for my people.

I cry along with my people during the Three Weeks, and Tisha bAv, Yom HaZicharon, Yom HaShoah, and during the Torah reading for Parshat Zachor. I cry for my people throughout the year. I love my people, the Jewish people,  my family. I leaned on that counter and sobbed for my family. My beautiful family, chosen by God because we have chosen God since the time of Abraham our Father. God made a Covenant with us and He hasn’t broken it. Throughout Jewish history, there have been Jewish people who did not keep their end of the Covenant. Okay, we individual Jews are not perfect people but we are God’s chosen nation. I cry for my people who have been violently attacked by the enemies of God for centuries. I cried for these centuries. For Jews who are slashed, bludgeoned, shot, and otherwise ill-fated victims of mass genocide. I cried for my people. The bloodthirsty enemies who surround our tiny Land, many who are privileged to reside in our Holy Land. When will their brutality against our people (and against their own people!) cease?

Eventually, I wiped my tears with the towel that those tears dampened. I went back to the room where the class took place, sat and gulped more water before rejoining. One of the well-intentioned participants rubbed my shoulder, sympathetically asking whether I knew someone who was a victim in a knife attack. Verklempt, I didn’t have the words to say, “My people! My people have been attacked.” I weakly replied that I didn’t want to talk about this now. I don’t have the words, but I do have the tears. 

I also cry bittersweet tears when I hear the music of “Ha Tikvah” and I’ll continue to cry until we can “lihiyot Am Chofshi B’Artzeinu, Etertz Tzion, Yerusalayim,” to live as a Free People in our Land, the Land of Zion, Jerusalem.

About the Author
Heather Dean is the host of the weekly podcast "At Home in Jerusalem" on Aish.com, interviewing Rabbis, scholars, and leading Jewish thinkers after 14 years of interviewing hundreds of celebrities for MTV, E! Entertainment Television, Associated Press (AP) Radio and more. “Searching for Heather Dean,” a memoir of her exciting career as a celebrity-interviewer and why she walked away from it, is due to be published this fall.
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