My brother and his family, four children and two grandchildren, live in Israel. Sometimes people ask me if I worry about their safety because of the possibility of terrorism or a missile sent from Gaza or one of the surrounding Arab nations. No, I really don’t. Not because it’s not a possibility, but because the odds are less any of them will be killed or injured that way than that they or I or any of us in the United States will be injured or killed in a car accident…or here, in a deadly shooting.
This week’s deadly mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh hits home for me in several ways. Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill community is an area I have visited several times over the years when my band visited the area to play for dances. I’ve walked the two block long business district of small shops and eaten in its restaurants. I’ve spent the night in homes in the area. And I know there are people among my circle of friends there who attend the Tree of Life Synagogue. I am seeing their posts on Facebook telling friends and family they are safe or noting the loss of someone they knew.
Churches, synagogues, mosques, any place of worship are supposed to places of safety, of spirituality, of peace. Attacks on them, on the people who attend them, must require an extra measure of hate if such a thing is possible. Your “average” mass murderer has become enraged with people at his workplace or in the country in general when their sad, lonely, depressed and angry emotional lives cause them to lash out at their imagined enemies.
Then they procure or gather their arsenal for attack. And here’s where the difference between gun laws in Israel and the United States make Israeli’s so much safer. If you live or travel in Israel, you will see guns, even semi-automatic weapons, everywhere. Soldiers and police on or off duty carry them. Israel might as well have our 2nd Amendment citing the necessity for a well regulated militia as a justification for citizens to bear arms. Nearly every citizen in Israel, male and female, is required to serve in the military after they graduate high school, and many continue their service in the reserve, sometimes keeping service weapons in their homes. Yet Israel has strict gun control laws and a firearm homicide rate 1/4 of that in the U.S. “Israelis must meet a detailed list of criteria to be allowed to own a firearm. They must ask the state for a license, are permitted only one gun at a time, and must even ask for permission to sell their gun. And the Firearms Licensing Department is no rubber stamp: Roughly 40 percent of requests are rejected” (https://www.timesofisrael.com/comparing-america-to-israel-on-gun-laws-is-dishonest-and-revealing/).
We’ve experienced two attempts at mass murder as we approach the 2018 midterm elections, elections many view as “the most important in our lifetimes,” a description usually reserved for presidential elections. One, thankfully, has been unsuccessful—the attempts at pipe bomb assassinations mailed to critics of the president by a man whose love of Trump is apparently only exceeded by his hatred of the targets of Trump’s verbal attacks. The other it appears, involves a man with a hatred for Jews who believed his murderous attack would prevent Latin American immigrants in a caravan approaching the United States seeking asylum from “invading” the United States and killing Americans. His animus was directed at a Jewish aid organization that is focused on providing services to refugees.
It would be easy to say that this is just a crazy idea concocted by a deranged mind if we didn’t have a president, backed up by a right wing media machine, who calls the stream of refugees an “invasion” that contains terrorists from the Middle East and he must send the army to deal with them.
Trump has said the absolute minimum of the required words about these crimes and called for unity, and in his next breaths has continued his attacks on his critics in the media and across the spectrum of political ideas. He has correctly called anti-Semitism a scourge, while not reducing his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump may not be legally responsible for these criminal acts, but he is guilty of inspiring them.