Last Wednesday’s Florida school massacre touched the Jewish community when a mentally unstable former student stepped onto the campus at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and killed 17 students and faculty, including five Jewish victims – four students and the teacher/coach who threw himself into the line of fire to save others.
America's national grief soon devolved into finger pointing.
- President Trump condemned the shooting as an act of hatred and evil and vowed to tackle mental health issues. He has since ordered the Justice Department on Tuesday to issue regulations banning so-called bump stocks, which help semiautomatic guns fire at a faster rate.
- Surviving students began organizing a nationwide march to demand gun-control legislation.
- Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee tweeted from Israel that the U.S. should embrace Israel’s model for school safety, saying Israel had eliminated the problem. A former Israeli Consul General countered that Israel never had such problems and doesn’t sell assault rifles to its citizens, although a vast majority of Israelis do own a gun. The shooter’s weapon of choice in the Florida attack was a legally purchased AR-15 assault rifle.
How Israel Has Dealt with School Shootings
Israel – more than any other nation – knows how to counter terrorism, given that the country is surrounded by enemies who are intent on wiping her out.
In 1974, Palestinian terrorists took 115 people hostage in an Israeli elementary school. Twenty-five people were killed, 22 of them children. Another 68 were injured.
Today, Israeli schools with 100 or more students must post armed guards who check anyone who enters the school. These guards engage any threats. The civilian police force handles school security, from kindergarten through college. The Ministry of Education funds shelters and fences, reinforces school buses and hires and trains guards.
Citizen Responsibilities Beyond Schools
In 2015, a flurry of stabbings prompted Israel to ease the process for citizens to obtain weapons. The number of armed civilians on the streets further increased after a shooting attack in Jerusalem.
"Civilians well trained in the use of weapons provide reinforcement in the struggle against terrorism," explained then-Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan.
Indeed, an armed passerby stopped terrorists in a 2016 market attack, and a tour guide with a pistol ended a 2017 ramming attack that left four soldiers dead. Terrorists have told the internal security service that they often target Haredi Jews because they are more likely to be unarmed.
Israel does have experience it could export to the U.S.:
- Background Checks. Potential Israeli gun owners must undergo mental and physical exams, background checks and shooting exams, and they must show they have a security reason to carry. A consequence of this, however, is a thriving black market that sells assault rifles similar to that used in the Florida shooting. In Israel the going price for such a weapon is around $14,000, compared to about $500 in the U.S.
- Discipline and Training. Every Israeli adult must serve in the military, a practice that develops character, teaches discipline, and trains Israelis in both self-defense and the safe use of weapons. A few Israeli combat veterans now offer anti-terrorism training camps, where attendees participate in a staged terror incident and learn mixed martial arts.
Let’s Be Prayerful and Solution Oriented
As we look for solutions to the issue of terrorism, let’s remember to be prayerful and solution oriented rather than point fingers and argue about a singular approach to ending school shootings or any other kind of terrorism. Let’s follow Israel’s example of background checks that keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable. We would also do well to adopt Israel’s enforcement of gun laws, fostering a disciplined citizenry trained in self-defense while fortifying our schools and other institutions.
Never again should a mentally unstable person known to have behavior issues be allowed to buy a lethal weapon. Never again should law enforcement ignore the red flags brought to them. Our children are too precious!
As in Israel, it will take an America pulling together for the good of the country rather than fighting for who gets the political upper hand.
What You Can Do
- Learn how you can become part of the solution to a culture of terrorism, whether in the U.S., the Middle East or elsewhere.
- Pray that God will dissolve the divisiveness that has a stranglehold on America, the Middle East and our world. Pray also for safe, stable and loving homes for the world’s children.
- Give to organizations like Jewish Voice that engage in bringing understanding, peace and reconciliation into our world.