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What Went Wrong in Israel?

Tribe of Nova music festival, Israel

By now everyone has seen the horrifying pictures of Israelis being murdered, abducted, raped, displayed on trucks and terrorized by Palestinian attackers. How could this have happened to a highly militarized country where most people serve in the army?

This question will no doubt be analyzed in detail in official investigations to be launched in the next few days.

However, there are indicators we can see in the words of survivors who ran for their lives or lived through hours of terror huddled in bomb shelters and private ‘safe rooms.’ Let’s take the Supernova Sukkot Gathering music festival, near Kibbutz Re’im. It serves as a prism for everything wrong that happened elsewhere.


The organizers did one thing right; they didn’t announce the location until a few hours before it began at 10:00 PM on Friday. This secrecy should have meant Palestinians wouldn’t be able to pre-plan an attack on the festival.

As fate would have it, this was just as Hamas was organizing for a dawn invasion, not just on the festival, but all along the contact line with the state of Israel.

Having done one thing right, they did one thing very wrong; they told festival goers not to bring firearms or “sharp objects” onto the grounds. This decision meant between 1,000 and 3,000 young people would be partying, unarmed, on a flat, featureless plain, within minutes of the Gaza border.

Secondly, from drone pictures, it appears most arrived by car and parked along a single paved road leading to the grounds. Thirdly, the few security guards paid for by the festival appear not to have been heavily armed.

There is a video of the party goers dancing under a tent with Palestinian gunmen in powered hang-gliders just visible in the sky behind them. A minute or two later they were on the grounds, and crucially, down the road the ravers would need to escape. The festival was now a killing zone in which young men and women were picked off like rabbits.

People ran for their lives, tried to drive away, tried to hide; for 260 of them, they died where they fell.

The festival organizers, like all of Israel, thought the Army, guarding the border, would protect them. But the army, which had built concrete security points, was itself depending on sensors and automated equipment to alert the troops. These were either destroyed or evaded and soldiers found armed Palestinians shooting up their barracks before they realized the attack had begun.

Incredibly, soldiers often didn’t have their guns, or access to their guns, when they awoke, making for a chaotic and inadequate response. Anytime a soldier is abducted without his, or her, weapons, is a cause for the greatest concern. Soldiers, after all, are supposed to be the shield of the nation.

There was also a slow response further back along the chain of command, resulting, in the case of the towns nearest the line being inundated with roaming Palestinians on motorbikes while citizens huddled in their homes. This often didn’t work as houses were broken into and residents murdered, raped, or abducted.

So, ask yourself, how can a few young men on bikes terrorize a town of 20,000 residents? The answer is the answer to all the other questions from the festival to the strong points to the vulnerable Kibbutzes: most Israelis did not have access to any kind of weapon. The nation has a reputation of being armed to the teeth, but when push came to shove, it was essentially unarmed.

One exception to the rule was at Kibbutz Nir Am where a 25-year old woman, Inbar Lieberman, the security coordinator, led a group of 12 residents to defend their settlement by distributing weapons from an armoury.


Lieberman killed five terrorists herself, while others gunned down 20 more over four hours. The result was that Nir Am remained unharmed while nearby settlements suffered devastating losses.

Worse, Israelis had fallen into the habit of assuming someone else, the police, the army, someone somewhere would take responsibility.

We see pictures of Israeli settlers carrying assault rifles on the West Bank. But this wasn’t the West Bank and plenty of Israelis belong to peace parties, the left wing, or anti-gun groups. In short, they are very much like we are, afraid of guns and believing that even owning guns can bring violence.

The obvious answer for Israel is to completely revamp its gun laws, to get army members to always carry loaded weapons, to get reservists to keep their assault rifles at home, to allow any Israeli to carry a concealed pistol and to institute realistic combat training for border guards.

There is a lot more that could be done, but this one message rings true. Citizens must defend themselves and must have the weapons and ammunition to do so. Nothing else works, nothing else matters as much.

Of course the same holds true, or would hold true, of Canada, now well on its way to general disarmament. God help us if 1000 Hamas militants decide to take over this country; they might well succeed.

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