Learning The Lesson About Being Your Own Defense
Learning The Lesson About Being Your Own Defense
October 7th was a horrific moment in Israel. But the lesson being taken from it, especially by American Jews and everyone who cares about protecting those they love, you are your own best line of defense.
The saying has always been that “when seconds count, the police are minutes away.” On October 7th, when Hamas broke through the fences between Gaza and Israel, invading, raping, kidnapping, and massacring civilians, it was stunning to see how many of those same civilians lacked the ability to fight back. There have been heroic stories from some kibbutzim where their security forces were able to take a stand and protect people, but too many were overrun because they relied too heavily on the distance between them and Gaza, the fences, or the IDF bases nearby. But Hamas had plans and details, and they likely also knew that the kibbutzim would offer little resistance.
CNN has reviewed documents that Israeli officials say were Hamas attack plans, which suggest that the group collected remarkably granular detail on its targets. But neither of the attacks went according to plan – thanks in part to a handful of volunteer guards who defended their neighbors in dramatic firefights.
Yarden Reskin, a member of Mefalsim’s volunteer security force who spent hours exchanging fire with militants – helping prevent any deaths inside the community – said he was shocked by the level of detail.
“They knew everything,” Reskin said. “They knew where are the gates, they knew where are the generators, they knew where is the armory, they knew basically how many of us on the security team… they had very, very good intel.”
Mefalsim, a community home to about 1,000 people, has long been a target of Hamas rockets because of its proximity to Gaza. So when locals received alerts about incoming rocket fire around 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning, they knew to head to their bomb shelters.
But the kibbutz residents soon realized this onslaught was different from any previous one. Reskin, who’s lived in Mefalsim his entire life, was huddling with his family in their home’s shelter when he heard a barrage of gunshots from nearby. “I kissed my wife, kissed my two little girls, and went out the door to see what I can do,” he said.
Reskin said that he was shocked to see black-clad fighters holding AK-47s just outside the kibbutz gates. He and a handful of other guards engaged in several skirmishes with the attackers for hours, often going up against larger numbers and firepower.
Security camera videos from Mefalsim posted on Telegram by a group of Israeli first responders show militants approaching the kibbutz’s main gate and shooting a man running toward it, before exchanging fire with guards. At one point, there were just three security guards “fighting against a force of about 15 or 16 terrorists,” another volunteer guard, Eli Levi, told CNN. Details of the battle were previously reported by the Wall Street Journal.
Later, Israeli military forces arrived and defeated additional militants approaching the community, Reskin and Levi said. While the attackers killed at least one civilian and potentially others outside the kibbutz gates, and a handful of residents were injured, no one was killed inside the community, according to Reskin and Levi.
Considering the numbers murdered on October 7th, the fact that Hamas only killed one civilian and didn’t get inside the gates is a testament to courage and dedication of the few armed security guards who were the only line of defense until the military was able to get there.
Sarah Pollack, a resident of Sa’ad who spent Saturday holed up in her family’s bomb shelter, said the kibbutz was hit by a rocket from Gaza, and some residents who were outside the community during the attack were killed. But no militants entered the kibbutz, and no one was killed inside the gates, she said.
“We don’t know how to explain that,” she said in an interview from her hotel near Arad in Israel, where she and her family had been evacuated after the attack. “It’s a huge, huge question to us. It’s a miracle.”
Even though Sa’ad escaped with far less death and destruction than neighboring kibbutzim, Pollack said the attack had deeply shaken residents’ sense of safety in what she described as a “lovely, lush, beautiful green area with gardens and trees that we’re so proud of.”
“We thought there was a physical barrier between the Gaza Strip and Israel to protect us, we thought we were safe,” she said. “We were very wrong.”
Within Israel, the perspective on self-defense has shifted dramatically after October 7th. The country had strict gun regulations for civilians (which seems so utterly at odds with their nationally mandated service in the IDF), ended up loosening those laws right after the massacre. As a result, over 236,000 people have filed for a permit.
In the United States, American Jews have seen the ugly surge in anti-Semitic rhetoric, rallies, and attacks. Now, those who would have never considered owning a firearm are willingly heading to the gun range – including those in highly liberal areas.
Tevi Troy has a resume full of Beltway credentials: PhD, Hill staffer, deputy cabinet secretary, think tank fellow, author of four books (with two more due next year).
But on a recent fall evening in the D.C. suburbs, Troy found himself in a class working toward a rather less traditional credential: Concealed-weapon permit-holder.
Troy isn’t alone. Shabbat-lunch conversations about whether or not neighbors should arm themselves have been a constant over the last month in Kemp Mill, his heavily orthodox Jewish neighborhood in placid, affluent Montgomery County.
Another resident, Chani Malui, told me she’s taking 11 neighbors to a class this weekend. Troy estimated that about half the people at the gun class he took were Jewish. “I joked to my wife, that woman over there looks like she should be at a Barbra Streisand concert, not a gun class.”
Troy, for his part, won’t specify if he’ll wind up with a weapon — he said he prefers “strategic ambiguity” about his status. But in his mind, getting armed is a bulwark against barbarism and all that comes with it. “When you descend into barbarism, you need some way to defend yourself and your family,” he said. As for the neighbors showing a new interest in weapons, “I don’t know of anyone who’s interested in it for the deer.”
While this POLITICO article is addressing the “Beltway” area of Washington D.C., and those who work there and live in the surrounding areas, and how the atmosphere has changed so dramatically (the recent “fights” on Capitol Hill merit a mention, but the rising crime rates do not), there is a focus on how Jews in particular are feeling especially vulnerable post-October 7th. And this is something that can be easily seen all over the country, from coast…
… to coast.
Every time I go to @SecuriteGunClub people keep coming up to me and introducing themselves.
Not because of the radio show, but because they are fellow Jews, they see the yarmulka and come up and tell me they are here for lessons because they don't want to be victims pic.twitter.com/dzjSAEvtF6
— Ari Hoffman (@thehoffather) November 12, 2023
It shouldn’t take a massacre to wake people up to being their own line of defense. It does, however, make it painfully obvious WHY our Founding Fathers wrote the Second Amendment. During the American Revolution, the British knew that the Americans were armed – and tried to prevent them from gaining any more arms or being resupplied with powder and ammunition. The British knew that the key to control was first disarming the population. Over the last several decades, the American right and responsibility of gun ownership has slowly been pushed out of the public sphere. It should not have been, and over the last few years, as cities have burned in riots and police departments were “defunded,” many Americans became hyper-aware that if something bad happened, there would be no one to call for help. Seconds count. You are your own best defense.
Nothing like October 7th will ever happen again in Israel. Why? Because the people of Israel will be armed. No terrorist group will be able to know who is possibly armed and willing to act in self defense, so there will never be another invasion like that again. The same way September 11th permanently changed how we saw the hijacking of an airplane, Israel will now carry the collective memory of October 7th forever.
And we here in America should learn some lessons, too. When is the last time you were at the gun range? Could you defend yourself if, as one of the handgun instructors I once took a class from said, you were all that stood between a bad guy and your kids? We in the United States know that we have a right to gun ownership, but we often forget the responsibility that goes with it. For far too long, we have, as a society, depended on others for our defense. October 7th should be a wake-up call – not just for Jews, but for everyone with someone or something to protect.
Featured image: original Victory Girls art by Darleen Click