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World Gun Crazy, Ethiopian Equality, Seeing Stars

Israel's Gun Policy Is Restrictive, Despite What Some May Think

Solange Reyner, Newsmax, February 20th 2018


Following a school shooting in Florida, US Politician Mike Huckabee unleashed a storm of criticism after erroneously characterizing Israel’s civilian gun policy as liberal.

The Context:

  • On a trip to Israel, Huckabee tweeted that Israel eliminated school shootings by “placing highly trained people strategically to spot the one common thread — not the weapon, but a person with intent.” Armed guards in Israel protect schools, movie theaters, and shopping malls, however civilians do not.

  • Israeli civilians seeking a gun license must have a clean bill of health, undergo a background check and be at least 21 with military service (27 otherwise). Gun licenses must be renewed every three years, and owners must also complete annual shooting range practice.

  • Civilian applicants that are accepted may purchase a 9mm pistol and 50 bullets annually. “There’s no misuse of rifles and guns in Israel,” said Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat [1].

  • US civilians own roughly 310 million firearms whereas in Israel — which has a population of about 8.5 million - 135,000 citizens are licensed to own guns. Of those, 37,500 work as guards [2].

  • For every 100,000 people, the United States has 10.3 gun deaths while Israel has 1.6 [3].

Conversation Points:

  • Do the results of Israel’s civilian gun policy underscore that fewer guns equal fewer deaths?

  • Should gun ownership be a right or a privilege?

  • What lessons can be learned when Israel, a state no stranger to terror, experiences few mass shootings despite its low percentage of civilian gun ownership?

After 30 Years of Limbo, Traditional Ethiopian-Jewish Religious Leaders Recognized by Israel

Benjamin Kerstein, Algemeiner, February 20th 2018


Israel officially recognized kesim, traditional Ethiopian religious leaders, ending a 30-year controversy over their official status.

The Context:

  • Kesim led the Ethiopian-Jewish community, known as Beta Israel, for centuries. Their role is similar to that of a rabbi in other Jewish communities. Since the mass aliyah of Ethiopian Jews in the 1980s, kesim have been unable to perform official religious functions in Israel.

  • Kesim can now exercise formal religious authority, and halachic rulings will be accepted as legitimate by Israel’s religious establishment. The decision also includes a plan for the integration of Ethiopian Rabbis into state-sponsored religious councils in order to “improve religious services available to Israeli citizens of Ethiopian origin [4].” Knesset member Pnina Tamano-Shata, who is of Ethiopian descent, praised the decision saying, “it’s better late than never to admit a mistake and correct an injustice.”

  • The first wave of Ethiopian Jews came to Israel during Operation Moses in 1984, [5] and at least 1,000 Ethiopian Jews will immigrate to Israel in 2018.

  • Another 8,000 Ethiopian Jews are awaiting approval to immigrate [6]. Most are classified as Falashmura, Jews whose ancestors converted to Christianity under duress. Israel’s Interior Ministry does not recognize the Falashmura as Jewish which makes the group ineligible to immigrate under the Law of Return [7].

Conversation Points:

  • Should the Interior Ministry be especially tolerant of Jewish communities that maintained their heritage despite its isolation from the broader Jewish world?

  • Would the Interior Ministry similarly restrict Spanish Marranos from immigrating under the Law of Return or might exceptions be applied selectively based on an applicant’s country of origin?

  • Does conversion under duress negate one's Jewish character?

Israeli Specialists Restore Eyesight Of Over 80 People In Papua New Guinea Aid Mission

NoCamels, February 20th 2018


Israeli medical specialists from the Sheba Medical Center visited Papua New Guinea to restore the eyesight of over 80 visually impaired people living in a remote village.

The Context:

  • Israeli ophthalmology experts joined 19 other nations [8] to perform surgeries on an Australian medical ship. The Israeli team screened patients for cataract surgeries, most of whom were blind in both eyes. Cataracts, which cloud the lens of the eye and lead to impaired vision over time, are treatable with the right medical care.

  • Last month, an Israeli team was first to respond to a cholera outbreak wrecking havoc in Zambia. Israel is often among the first to respond to crises and natural disasters around the world including Mexico & Puerto Rico in 2017, Nepal in 2015, the Philippines in 2013 and Haiti in 2010.

Conversation Points:

  • Should humanitarian aid naturally translate to strong diplomatic relations and if so, why do most nations Israel has helped in recent years continue to vote against it in public forums?


  1. Is Israel a Model When It Comes to Guns, as Mike Huckabee Says?, Isabel Kershner, New York Times, February 20th 2018

  2. Ibid.

  3. Israel Does Not Have An Armed Citizenry, Mr. Huckabee, Nathan Guttman, Forward, February 16th 2018

  4. In Historic Move, Israel’s Ethiopian Religious Leaders Gain Official Status, Andrew Friedman, The Jewish Voice, February 21st 2018

  5. Ibid.

  6. Government approves immigration of 1,000 Ethiopian Jews for 2018, Melanie Lidman, Times of Israel, February 12th 2018

  7. Ibid.

  8. Israel Medical Experts from Sheba Medical Center Restore Eyesight to the Blind in Remote Papua New Guinea Villages, Benzingam February 19th 2018

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