Following the deadly terror attacks that took place near a synagogue in Neve Yaakov and two weeks later in the heart of the Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood Ramot in which 10 people were killed in total, the issue of whether or not members of the Haredim (Ultra-Orthodox Jews) should carry weapons has been raised once again.
Rabbi Sinai Halberstam, who serves as the Rabbinical Council for the Bnei Brak chapter of United Hatzalah, issued a directive to all United Hatzalah volunteers who have the ability to carry a weapon, to attend synagogue on Shabbat carrying a weapon. Among those who have the required permits, are 25 volunteer EMTs, who will now provide a first response should anyone try to attack the various communities in the Ultra-Orthodox city.
The leadership of United Hatzalah in the city is working to get permits for an additional 40 volunteers to get gun permits in order to provide additional coverage and protection for more synagogues and communities in the city. The volunteers, who carry these weapons during the weekdays, now have a special ruling that allows them to carry them during Shabbat as well.
Volunteers of the organization began getting special permission to carry weapons after the fatal terror attack in Bnei Brak one year ago that claimed the lives of five people. During that incident, one of the volunteers responded so quickly that he arrived while the terrorist was still shooting and came under attack himself. At the time, fifteen volunteers received a special permit from United Hatzalah as a legally recognized body for the purpose of receiving a gun license.
After the two recent attacks targeting people in Ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods, Rabbi Halberstam told Bnei Brak Chapter Head Effi Feldman that all those able and willing to carry weapons in order to protect the lives of their fellow community members should do so. “In light of the many warnings and the sensitive situation that we currently find ourselves in, it is a positive commandment (Mitzvah) and obligation for anyone authorized to do so from the volunteers of the Bnei Brak branch to carry their weapons with them even on Shabbat and holidays and especially when going to the synagogue – which can be a place that is targeted due to many people congregating there, and therefore one of heightened danger”.
After receiving the directive Feldman added, “Due to the recent escalation and security threat, and in order to enhance the feelings of safety for civilians, we are currently working to expand the number of volunteers who are permitted to carry weapons due to their volunteering as first responders. Additionally, as per Rabbi Halberstaum’s directive, I’ve instructed the 25 volunteers who currently have a gun license to carry their weapon as well as their medical equipment, and keep it on them, even in a synagogue, in order so that they can be prepared should something G-d forbid happen. I hope that they will never need to use them, but it is a commandment to be prepared and save lives.”
Israel Alter, deputy head of the branch, shared: “In light of questions raised by the volunteers, we held a consultation with Rabbi Sinai Halberstam, and with Rabbi Avraham Yeshayahu Karlitz. At the end of the consultation, Rabbi Sinai Halberstam issued a ruling to the volunteers of the United Hatzalah in the city that It is a mitzvah and absolute obligation to carry the weapons with them even on Shabbat and holidays as long as the threat of terrorism exists.”