Let Jews Arm Themselves to Keep Their Synagogues Safe

Dec. 27 2022

Since 2018, there have been three violent attacks on worshippers at American synagogues; numerous others were attempted, threatened, or successfully foiled by law enforcement. Under these circumstances, Jewish communities have adopted various protective measures, including arming themselves. State laws in Maryland and New York, however, specifically prohibit carrying weapons in houses of prayer. Stuart Halpern and Tevi Troy argue against such regulations:

Legally speaking, the laws appear to violate the Second Amendment guarantee of the right to bear arms. Indeed, the New York law was challenged on that basis, and the Maryland law may face a legal challenge as well. But the laws could also be subject to a First Amendment challenge, as they could be seen as an unreasonable burden on the free exercise of religion. After all, if you can’t worship safely because of the threat of anti-Semitic violence, how can you be free to practice your religion?

Legalities aside, there is a larger problem here: these laws may be well-meaning, but the fact remains that, if enacted, potential victims will comply with the law, while their potential attackers won’t. As a result, the attackers will remain armed and dangerous, while potential protectors will be disarmed and limited to the run, hide, and fight directives of local synagogue security committees. These committees do great work, but they necessarily tell congregants, as a last resort, to throw a siddur (Jewish prayer book) at an attacker. A siddur, alas, is a poor substitute for a gun in a firefight.

The 3,000-year-old Jewish tradition has examined the tension between sanctity and safety in the synagogue. In the book of Exodus, the Almighty offers instructions for building a sacrificial altar—what would become a central component of the holy sanctuary. The Israelites are told that it is not to be made of hewn, or carved, stone. Using a sword—a weapon—in the construction of a ritual object, the Bible makes clear, would profane what is meant to be sanctified. Yet the Jewish tradition also recognizes instances of violence as necessary in defense of holy places. The book of Kings recounts how the rebellious Joab, after a failed coup, tries to avoid capture from King Solomon by grasping the sanctuary altar. Solomon ordered him executed there nonetheless.

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Read more at City Journal

More about: American Jewry, Second Amendment, Synagogues, Terrorism

Condemning Terrorism in Jerusalem—and Efforts to Stop It

Jan. 30 2023

On Friday night, a Palestinian opened fire at a group of Israelis standing outside a Jerusalem synagogue, killing seven and wounding several others. The day before, the IDF had been drawn into a gunfight in the West Bank city of Jenin while trying to arrest members of a terrorist cell. Of the nine Palestinians killed in the raid, only one appears to have been a noncombatant. Lahav Harkov compares the responses to the two events, beginning with the more recent:

President Joe Biden called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to denounce the attack, offer his condolences, and express his commitment to Israel’s security. Other leaders released supportive statements as well. Governments across Europe condemned the attack. Turkey’s foreign ministry did the same, as did Israel’s Abraham Accords partners the UAE and Bahrain. Even Saudi Arabia released a statement against the killing of civilians in Jerusalem.

It feels wrong to criticize those statements. . . . But the condemnations should be full-throated, not spoken out of one side of the mouth while the other is wishy-washy about what it takes to stave off terrorism. These very same leaders and ministries were tsk-tsking at Israel for doing just that only a day before the attacks in Jerusalem.

The context didn’t seem to matter to some countries that are friendly to Israel. It didn’t matter that Israel was trying to stop jihadists from attacking civilians; it didn’t matter that IDF soldiers were attacked on the way.

It’s very easy for some to be sad when Jews are murdered. Yet, at the same time, so many of them are uncomfortable with Jews asserting themselves, protecting themselves, arming themselves against the bloodthirsty horde that would hand out bonbons to celebrate their deaths. It’s a reminder of how important it is that we do just that, and how essential the state of Israel is.

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Read more at Lahav’s Newsletter

More about: Jerusalem, Palestinian terror