ARE ISRAELI TEACHERS ARMED? Or, is it Just an Internet Myth?

Ron Cantor —  December 15, 2012 — 43 Comments
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Inaccurate Photo with over 7,000 likes on Facebook

Several years ago, a picture made its way around the Internet and it prompted me to write this article. It is one of my most read blogs. The picture was posted after a school shooting, not unlike what happened in South Florida last week. It claims that Israeli teachers are packing heat. Well, are they?

Sorry to disappoint

The answer is “NO.” There may be some exceptions in dangerous areas like the West Bank (where five percent of Israelis live), but in general, Israeli teachers are not walking around like it’s the Wild Wild West (or Middle East), strapped with a six shooter. My wife was a teacher in the Israeli public school system and I am pretty sure she didn’t carry a gun (or want to). No, our teachers are not focused on shooting, but educating. That doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t protect young students.

In the picture, the students are on an outing. While it does appears that the teacher is holding a rifle, I have never seen such a thing in 15 years of living in Israel. Rest assured however, they is under armed protection. In most cases it is an armed guard or a soldier that will accompany a class, not the teacher, on a field trip. I remember going on such a trip with my daughter when she was in elementary school and yes, we had a young man with us, who was armed for our protection. And my guess is that the woman with the gun is a security guard, not a teacher.

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Every School is Gated

Secondly, they are not armed in the classroom. Is that really the image you want to imprint on the minds of six-year-olds? (That would be Hamas) On the other hand. I have never seen a school in Israel that was not fenced in. You must go through a locked gate that is guarded by an armed shomer (security guard). He or she, on the other hand, is not concerned with educating, but protecting. He or she will ask you why you are there? “What is your child’s name?” “Show me your I.D. card.” And he or she would not let you bring a weapon inside.

These types of massacres don’t seem to happen here for other reasons as well. Despite the stereotype of Israel being a violent nation, it is a million times (slight exaggeration) easier to get a weapon in the US than it is in Israel. Gun Control laws are very strict here.

Impossible for Trouble People to Get Guns

Two types of people have guns in Israel: Soldiers and those with licenses. Mentally unstable people don’t have guns or access to guns—and thus, do not shoot people. And it is not as easy to steal a gun in Israel as it is in the US. When you are drafted you go through mental tests to see if there are any red flags. If so, you will be discharged or placed in an area where you would never see a rifle.

Only those with the rank of Captain or Lieutenant Colonel for at least two years can qualify to own a gun after the army. And those who do have guns are taught to guard them carefully. For soldiers who take their weapons home, it must be on their persons at all times or under lock and key.

Lose your Gun, Go to Jail

Losing a weapon will get you a jail sentence, as my wife’s childhood friend, Moti, found out two decades ago. He left his gun in his car because he was just running into a minimart. He came back and the gun was gone. He spent six months in jail and God only knows where that gun ended up.

Hunting is so regulated that is nearly non-existent. You would never see someone with five or six hunting rifles in their truck and therefore, their disturbed son, who spends ten hours a day playing violent video games, would not have access to such.

We are fond of saying Guns don’t kill people, people do… But we could also say that Mentally unstable people who can’t obtain assault rifles or even pistols are far less likely to commit mass murder.

Assault rifles are banned in Israel, except in areas where there is a security risk such as the West Bank.

“Unlike in the United States, where the right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution’s Second Amendment, Israel’s department of public security considers gun ownership a privilege, not a right. Gun owners in Israel are limited to owning one pistol, and must undergo extensive mental and physical tests before they can receive a weapon, and gun owners are limited to 50 rounds of ammunition per year.” (jta.org)

I don’t think that those who drafted the Second Amendment imagined that those who feel rejected at school or who were bullied would have access not merely to a musket that fires one bullet at a time before reloading, but to an arsenal of semi automatic assaults rifles that we see in so many of these school shootings. While am a firm believer in someone’s right to arm themselves for protection, I struggle seeing why there a need for semi-automatic assault rifles. It is argued that those intent on murder will find another way if they can’t get a gun. But this is not true. Many will simply not kill. Some will find another way, but it will be less lethal or gives authorities more time to stop the perpetrator.

I think the amendment was for people like Israelis who live in the West Bank and are under the threat of attack all the time. I am far too ignorant concerning the ‘Gun Control’ issue to give much of an educated opinion. But I don’t like people using Israel as an example, as we make it very difficult to own a gun.

Israel: Good Example

However, I think we should be an example of a country that makes sure that the right people get guns and the wrong people don’t. In 2008 an Arab terrorist opened fire in a Yeshiva (school for religious boys) killing eight young men. An off-duty IDF officer grabbed his gun, just as he was putting his kids to bed. He ran out of the house and into the Yeshiva, where he hunted down the terrorist, shooting him before a security guard also put two bullets in his head.

In another incident not long afterwards, a Arab worker went berserk with his bulldozer turning it into a killing machine. Oron Ben Shimon, an armed civilian, jumped onto the bulldozer along with a soldier. Ben Shimon struggled with the terrorist, while the soldier, at Ben Shimon’s urging, shot him dead, saving many lives.

Israel’s successful gun ownership laws both serve to make sure upstanding, brave and mentally sound citizens have access to guns, and that those who present even a minor threat are prevented from possessing one. It would be a mistake to use Israel as the poster child for more weapons in the US, as our success here is much more connected to limiting weapons and enabling strategies such as gates, fences and armed guards (not armed teachers), to protect our children. Sorry to disappoint, but the truth is important.

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