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Daniel Gordis

Armed and Ready for Synagogue in Israel

Tensions in Israel are so high, it's hard to imagine life getting better soon.
Should they be armed?

Should they be armed?

Photographer: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

At the conclusion of synagogue services Friday night, there was a special announcement: “In light of the security situation, everyone who has a valid gun license and a weapon should please come to services armed. Unfortunately, not enough people have done so. So we are asking again. Those who can, please bring a gun.”

Though gun licenses are not easy to get, and many Israelis are turned down (though restrictions may soon be eased due to recent events), many do have guns; soldiers have them, officers keep their license after military service, those who travel to or live in dangerous areas can get permits. But still, the request felt surreal. Take a gun to go pray? Synagogues in Israel are typically much smaller than they are in the U.S. -- ours is hardly larger than the living room of a comfortable home, with some 200 seats packed into it. There are two small doors, right next to each other. For those on the other side of the room, there’s no way out. I imagined the scene -- gunmen make their way past the amateur guards outside and start firing into the synagogue. What happens next? In a densely packed room, lawyers, doctors, academics and a bunch of retired people are going to start shooting back? It’s ludicrous. The congregants themselves would probably kill more people than would the terrorists.