Some Lessons Learned in Israel’s Kibbutzim

Like most other Americans, I have been closely watching the recent events in Israel.  I traveled there once, as a tourist, for several weeks. On that family trip, we drove up to the northern border with Lebanon, and all the way south to Eilat, on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. My wife (Avalanche Lily) has studied Hebrew for many years, and she has traveled to Israel more than a dozen times. In all, she has spent more than three years in Israel. So for us, watching the Israel-Hamas War brings back a lot of our travel memories. Lily lived for seven months as a volunteer at two different Kibbutzim in the Hula Valley. She volunteered twice at Kibbutz Dafna and once at Kibbutz Hulata.

On one occasion while on Kibbutz Dafna, she had to take shelter from 122mm Katushya rocket attacks on Kiryat Shemonah, with rockets arriving from Lebanon. Kibbutz Dafna is only three miles from Kiryat Shemonah. It was reported that one of the rockets fell out in the fields less than a mile away from the kibbutz. Lily said that every time a rocket exploded the ground shook at the kibbutz. After another stay in Israel that lasted nine months, Lily left Israel and returned to the U.S. on July 2, 2006. That was just ten days before the 2006 Lebanon War rocket barrage. Friends later called and told her a that rocket fell on a restaurant just five hundred yards from the apartment house where she had been living in Tiberias. So for Lily, the recent events have even more vibrant memories attached.

When the modern state of Israel was founded in the aftermath of World War 2 and the Holocaust, guns were ubiquitous. The vast majority of settlers in the fledgling nation were armed and vigilant. But with the leadership of Israel mostly European Ashkenazis rather than Sephardic, they brought with them a European mindset on gun regulations. The Ashkenazis are quite distinct — genetically, culturally, and even religiously from Israel’s Semetic Sephardim. Quite soon, Israel’s government began registering guns, and eventually developed an absurd system, where for all but a veritable handful of licensed collectors, most Israeli citizens are limited to owning just one gun — usually a handgun — under very strict controls and a stringent permit renewal system. There are also strict limitations to how much ammunition can be kept at home. That is just 50 rounds. When we’ve had Israeli friends stay at our home, they had very wide eyes, when I swung open the door of our main gun vault. They were amazed that we were “allowed” to have more than one gun, and so much ammunition.

Only about 20% of Israeli households now have guns. Some modern-day settlers in the West Bank and up in the Golan Heights are issued M16s for their protection, but they represent less than 3% of the nation’s population. The other 97% are absurdly under-armed, except when they are on active military duty. The nation still has nearly universal conscription, and upon leaving the IDF, there are many years of required Reserve service.  It boggles my mind how an entire people group could experience systematic gun registration, confiscation, mass roundups, and mass extermination, only to put in place their own bureaucracy that would make it all possible to be completely disarmed again.  The word stupid doesn’t quite describe it.

A Tale of Two Kibbutzim

The recent Hamas incursion and atrocities at kibbutzes have been well-documented. I won’t repeat the details here. Some liberal pundits absurdly questioned the baby-killing atrocity news reports.  In answer to them, Benjamin Netanyahu posted actual photos, to Twitter.

An Aside: The term Kibbutz refers to a quasi-communist collective farm, run under strong discipline, usually with communal mess halls and “shared profits.”  Most of Israel’s other farmers live on Moshavs — privately-owned farms that are sometimes clustered together, for mutual defense.  The Kibbutzim and the Moshavim are quite distinct in the way they go about their business and in their outlook on life.

With Luck and Pluck

The early October 2023 Hamas attacks were directed at a well-publicized “rave” all-night concert, and at several kibbutzim  — most within 10 kilometers of the Gaza border fence. At Kibbutz Kfar Aza, a 750-member kibbutz with lax security, there was a bloodbath. But at another, Kibbutz Nir Am, thanks to the efforts of Inbal Lieberman, a 25-year-old IDF veteran who was their security coordinator, there were no kibbutzniks killed. She was lucky enough to have a few minutes of warning, to hand out weapons from the kibbutz’s armory to the 12 trained and drilled members of her security team before the Hamas terrorists got to their inner fence. Lieberman was the only woman. The other 11 members of the team were all men. She dispatched her team to several pre-arranged ambush sites inside of the fenceline. Inbal Lieberman herself killed five of the terrorists, and the rest of her team killed another 20 of them.

The experience at Kibbutz Nir Am on October 7th should have taught us several important things:

  1. When danger arises, don’t hesitate. Hesitation will get you killed.
  2. Make a good defensive plan, but be flexible.
  3. Stand your ground and repel armed attackers with ferocity.
  4. If you set an ambush, expect the enemy to charge at your ambush and attempt to out-flank it. Interlocking fields of fire are a time-proven design.
  5. Don’t stop shooting until the Bad Guys are down and clearly out of the fight.
  6. Radio communications are a force multiplier.
  7. Help may not be on the way for hours, or even days. So stack your magazine deep. The Nir Am defenders had a 3.5-hour gun battle with their attackers before the terrorists withdrew. And it was not until several more hours before any sort of relief force arrived.
  8. Training pays off. Train hard, and the odds are that you will bleed less.
  9. Fire and maneuver tactics haven’t changed much in 75 years.
  10. Though the Nir Am attack took place in daylight, the kibbutz had also practiced mounting a defense at night, using Starlight night vision gear.
  11. Weapons, body armor, helmets, and night vision gear should not be kept locked up in a central armory. They should be kept ready in individual homes.
  12. Take perimeter security seriously.  When she first accepted the security coordinator position a year ago, Inbal Lieberman was told: “I hope you won’t have too much to do.” But Lieberman was conscientious and did a good job of training her team.
  13. Perimeter security is a team effort, and it can be multi-generational. The oldest member of the team at Nir Am was 59 years old.
  14. How to become the most eligible bachelorette in the country.
Israel Needs to Reform Its Gun Laws

The science fiction writer Harlan Ellison once famously wrote: “The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.”  Well, stupidity seems to be in full force, in Israel’s national government.  Given the situation on the ground, Israel’s gun laws are just plain stupid.  Again, and again, civilians have been needlessly slaughtered by terrorists in Israel. There were just a few token gun law reforms announced early in 2023, and a few more just last week. (See: Israel Loosens Strict Gun Control Laws To Arm ‘As Many Citizens As Possible’.)  Seriously, Israel needs to eliminate their existing gun laws, and become more like the United States, Finland, or Switzerland.

Bottom line: Large numbers of effective battle rifles must kept in homes and not just in the homes of Settlers in designated “unsafe” areas. Clearly, Israel needs to reform its gun laws, immediately. – JWR