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.

Read more at City Journal

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

The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy