Guns are as American as apple pie. Whether we are pro or anti-gun, at one point or another talk of firearms peppers our conversations. If you watch even a small amount of television, it probably will not take long until a gun is used in some way on screen. Even despite recent attempts to limit that exposure with the removal of Elmer Fudd’s cherished shotgun. *gasp* Flip through the channels long enough and you will see them again.
by Logan Misseldine, contributing writer
While America is unique in the way that we handle and represent gun culture, there are three constitutions in the world that allow citizens the right to gun ownership. Out of the three countries that protect the right to bear arms, our constitution is the only one that has no constitutional restrictions.
In the current political contention surrounding guns, and specifically gun ownership, it is beneficial to look at gun cultures from other countries. This can either build up our morale as gun owners to say, “At least we don’t have it as bad as them,” or to try and expand the defense of our own culture.
One of the most unique countries with one of the most interesting gun cultures is Israel. With a long history of violence and conflict that started well before the modern sense of the country was even thought of, there is a lot that can be learned from examining Israeli gun ownership, culture, and laws.
Overview of Israel’s History
To understand Israel’s gun culture, it is important to understand its history and where its need for firearms came from. Israel has one of the most unique and intense histories in this regard.
Jerusalem and the Holy Land
Israel sits on what many religions and countries regard as their holy land, Jerusalem being the epicenter. The country that has governed over the area that is now Israel, then called Palestine, has changed many times. The British were in charge right before Israel was established as a Jewish state in 1948. Yet the push to make the area a Jewish state started long before even the 20th century.
When the Jewish people began to be exiled from their ancestral homelands, they almost immediately wanted to eventually return and restore the Jewish belief system in the area (referred to as Zion), or Zionism. The original modern migration of Jewish people to Palestine began in 1881 as they fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe.
The official modern movement of Zionism was founded by Theodore Herzl in 1896, even though it had technically been practiced long before that. As the settlements began to grow and face threats from the surrounding countries and governments, they formed several defense organizations to protect their interests.
There was nothing easy about the creation of the final version of modern Israel. There had already been centuries of on and off conflicts to conquer and control the area, and the movement to establish it as the country we know today was no different.
After World War 2, there were multiple armed conflicts and raids between Jewish insurgency and the occupying UK forces, until in 1948 when Israel was declared and established, and the Arab-Israeli War promptly started the next day. Though it ended in less than a year, there have been recurring conflicts with the surrounding countries, to which Israel has been both aggressor and victim.
Related Article: 4 Most Popular Guns Designed or Made in Israel
This has led the small country to not only develop a strong enough army to defend itself but also to design and manufacture their own unique firearms that would fit the needs of their army to protect their citizens. They developed alliances and positive relations with several larger countries, including the United States of America. Despite these alliances, wars and threats persisted for Israel, right up to today.
Guns and Gun Culture in Israel
Now that we have looked at a brief overview of the formation and history of conflict in Israel, it is easy to see how firearms have played a huge part in the country’s culture and economy. Not only has the nation needed guns, they have designed and manufactured weapons to fit their needs. While there is a large and prevalent use of guns in Israel, it is quite different from the culture in the U.S. for several reasons.
Israeli Military Service and Carrying of Guns
Most citizens’ exposure to firearms comes from their required two and a half years of service in the Israeli military. Part of the terms of their service is the capability to keep their firearms with them at all times regardless if they are on duty or off duty. It does not matter if they are in uniform or out of uniform.
Remember, Israel is a small country and subject to many unexpected attacks. This is why it is not uncommon to see what seem like average everyday citizens walking the streets of Israel with military-grade guns. The thinking behind requiring carrying a firearms is that if an armed threat were to appear near them that they would be able to rise to action and neutralize the aggressive force.
So even though there is no explicit right for Israeli citizens to bear arms, many of its citizens have had intimate exposure to firearms and their functions. This has led to a high percentage of individuals caught in the act of committing violent acts to being stopped by private citizens who happened to be carrying a weapon with them.
Is Private Gun Ownership Legal in Israel?
Strangely enough, Israeli gun laws are surprisingly strict. Normal citizens must not only acquire a permit, but have to prove they have a valid reason in obtaining it! A doctor must verify the mental and physical capability of the citizen. The citizen also must complete an extensive course to prove proficiency with their firearm and then they are subjected to a security check. They are only allowed a single handgun and a limit of 50 rounds of ammunition at any given time. The license is specific to the firearm and it must be renewed every two years with proof of proficiency.
There are also different rules of engagement for private citizens that limit the times that they can legally use their weapon, which does not include instances of burglars and trespassers they find on their own property unless there is a clear threat on the life of anyone on the property.
Yet there are not many places that do not allow citizens to carry their weapon, both concealed and openly carried, including synagogues.
American Versus Israeli Gun Culture
Out of all the regulations and restrictions that Israel there is one that especially caught my eye, the mandatory training and proficiency tests. Here is why I found it Interesting:
American Gun Culture
Here in the U.S., a large part of our gun culture is that guns are useful for multiple functions, not just self-defense. From recreation to entertainment to hunting and subsistence, there is a huge demand for firearms of all shapes and sizes. One of the ways Americans have attempted to restrict guns is to regulate the legality of certain shapes and features of firearms, specifically the AR-15 style of firearms.
Israeli Gun Culture
In Israel, the weapon is not what is viewed as destructive but the person. On top of the fact that almost every citizen has had practical experience safely handling and operating weapons in their military service, they have made it mandatory that those who own firearms in their civilian setting have continual training in protection of not only themselves, but their fellow citizens. What this does is allow them to not only be trained to ensure the safe use of their weapons, but it also gives a very real and visceral ability of its citizens to protect themselves when the need arises.