Want to deter attacks on Jews? Go grassroots!

Last night at my Krav Maga class, I was showing a woman my tactical self defence pen… And she asked if that is the only tactical self defence weapon I carry… I was like… “Even my umbrella!” 😃

You’re Americans… Get a gun… Get two guns… Get an armoury if you so wish.

(God! I’d do anything to be able to carry a gun for self defence… unfortunately I’m British… hence the Mary Poppins tactical umbrella ☂️)

MainOpEdsWant to deter attacks on Jews? Go grassroots!

Want to deter attacks on Jews? Go grassroots!

Haredi Jews need to embrace an ethos of self-protection, community protection, carrying whatever is legal for them to carry and making the authorities know that they will be actively present on the streets.

16/01/20 15:32 | Douglas Altabef
OpEdsJews in BrooklynJews in Brooklyn

Watching photos of the recent 25,000-attendee anti-Semitism rally in Manhattan, my heart sank. There were the oh so resolute political and establishment Jewish leaders looking serious, really serious, and intent on stemming the growing tide of violence engulfing Jews, hitting mostly Haredi Jews, in and around New York City.

The show of strength probably sent shivers through the spine of approximately no one.

These leaders were people who basically have no clue as to how to stop this scourge, but clearly feel the need to show that they care, they really do care.

Fair enough. It is important to get the backing and support of these people. Unfortunately, it will hardly make a dent in the psyche of the hating and vicious.

For this to happen, there has to be deterrence, and for deterrence to take hold there has to be a pervasive sense that these acts of hate will be met with responses. That there will be repercussions and consequences.

Arresting people and releasing them without bail the same day hardly falls into the category of repercussions or consequences.

The response must be a sense that actions will be met with reactions, as attacks occur or shortly thereafter.

In other words, there needs to be a grassroots response. There need to be active neighborhood patrols, citizen arrests, training in self defense, krav maga, and other martial arts, and above all, there needs to be a street presence of Jews, preferably Haredi Jews, who will not be afraid to be seen in the areas that have been most vulnerable to attack.

The Israel Defense Forces have forever buried the canard that Jews are not tough nor willing to fight. Haredi Jews need to embrace an ethos of self-protection, community protection, carrying whatever is legal for them to carry and making the authorities know that they will be actively present on the streets.

We have recently seen the public renaissance of the Guardian Angels, a group of stout- hearted volunteers whose mission is to deter street violence by their presence on the streets. These are great folks worthy of our support and respect.

But, as their intrepid leader Curtis Sliwa points out, there is not a Jew in the bunch. The Jews are outsourcing their own protection to others.

The story of Israel as a successful haven from attack is just the opposite. At the end of the day, we have had to rely on ourselves, first and last.

Self-reliance is both appropriate and powerful. It sends the message that this is important to us; so important, that we cannot entrust it to anyone else.

For some, my suggestion might conjure up visions of the Jewish Defense League, which combined a political agenda with self-defense. That is not needed here. There is no need to make Jew hatred into a political issue, because it should, it must be above politics,

Jew hatred is unacceptable, period. Whether it is directed towards a Haredi man or a secular freshman on a university campus, Jew hatred must be reviled.

One way to have it reviled is to counter Jew hatred with Jew protection, resulting in problems for Jew haters. This might mean carrying pepper spray, tasers (where legal) and good old-fashioned baseball bats.

Some might say, well you can’t be everywhere; and that is true. However, if the perception is that the Jewish community, and especially the insular, cohesive Haredi communities are protecting their streets, then there is also likely to be a growing sense that this protection might just happen to be where a Jew hater might find him or herself.

If our political authorities and Jewish establishment leaders are serious about actually stopping attacks on Jews, then they will sanction and fund neighborhood and community group protection squads. They will buy equipment, pay for self defense training and hire coordinators.

No one wants to live as if they are in a war zone. But war is typically thrust upon us and not sought. When it comes our way, there is no choice but to engage, with the hope that such engagement can turn the tide and carry the day.

If the pundits who say that many of the attacks are coming from deranged people are right, then a visible presence on streets and in vulnerable neighborhoods might register with such people. There might be great incentives for them to turn elsewhere, or better yet, nowhere, in order to actualize their delusions.

Israel’s success in dealing with random intifada stabbings and assaults is largely a function of vigilance and awareness on the part of the citizenry. It has not made Israelis meanspirited or insensitive. It has made them safer.

So too should it be in American Jewish communities. Vigilance and awareness are a mitzva – pekuach nefesh – saving a life, and do not represent any kind of compromise with Jewish morals and ideals.

Salvation for the Jews will come from somewhere, as Mordechai told Esther. In the case of vulnerable American Jewish communities, I believe that such salvation will come from the Jews themselves.

Douglas Altabef is the Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots Zionist organization, and a Director of the Israel Independence Fund. The views expressed here are his alone. He can be reached at dougaltabef@gmail.com.

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