Self-defense classes are jam-packed, gun applications are pouring in and pepper spray is a hot commodity in Israel, where a wave of deadly stabbings by Palestinians has citizens of the Jewish state on edge and fighting back.
These are not settlers living in the disputed West Bank, where people armed and ready to defend themselves have long been wary of potential attacks from Palestinians. The wave of fear driving the interest in self-defense is happening in the heart of Israel, where the shocking recent escalation of stabbing attacks by Arab men and women who live and work among Israeli Jews has citizens worrying about where and when the next random attack may occur.
"There's no doubt that recent events show that every citizen is now a potential target for shooting or stabbing and that's why I have applied for a license to own a pistol," Dotan Cohen, a 40-year-old accountant who lives near Gan Shmuel, where a recent attack occurred, told FoxNews.com. "When I spoke to the local council this morning about my application, they told me they are overwhelmed with the number of people seeking to receive a license to carry a gun."
Israel's public security ministry has been deluged with more than 8,000 gun license requests per day over the past two weeks, a huge increase over its regular 150 license requests per day. Tel Aviv gun dealer Yariv Ben Yehuda told The Marker sales are up 30 percent, and customers also have cleaned the shelves of pepper spray.
Citizens young and old are also turning to the Israeli military self-defense method of Krav Maga -- including dozens who turned out for a free class sponsored by local officials in the small town of Zichron Yaakov.
"We volunteered our services for free [after officials approached] us about a class for citizens," Krav Maga instructor Ilan Fadlon told FoxNews.com. "This time the situation is so serious and the public feel more vulnerable. You don’t have to be a black belt to learn something basic that might be enough to save your life.”
"There's no doubt that recent events show that every citizen is now a potential target for shooting or stabbing and that's why I have applied for a license to own a pistol," Dotan Cohen,
- Dotan Cohen, Israeli accountant
Videos and images explaining how best to stab a Jew, and which knives are most lethal, have accompanied propaganda in the Arab world suggesting that Israel is planning to occupy Al Aqsa, the holy Muslim site overlooking the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly insisted this is a lie and that recent incursions by Israeli security forces in and around the mosque came only in response to attacks launched from there by stone-throwing mobs targeting Jews praying at the Western Wall below.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, despite claims in some quarters that he is attempting to calm tensions, ratcheted up the tension last week when he lambasted Israel for “executing” a 13-year-old Palestinian stabbing suspect who was, in fact, alive and being treated at an Israeli hospital. Gaza-based Hamas and many in Abbas' own Fatah party have openly lauded Arab stone throwers, stabbers, shooters and suicide bombers, as “martyrs” and “heroes.”
One Israeli who took the Krav Maga class said the daily headlines weigh heavily on her mind.
"[The danger] feels real, so I came along today,” said 55-year-old Irit Chermesh, who took the class Tuesday. “I do think about the attacks, but they don’t prevent me from going about my everyday life. I try to be more alert though. If on weekends before the present troubles I might buy fruit at the nearby Arab village, now I don’t think I would do that. I must say though, that as a doctor with many Arab colleagues, everything in the workplace remains perfectly normal.”
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat urged people with a firearms license to carry their weapons instead of keeping them at home under lock and key.
"One advantage that Israel has is that there are quite a few ex-members of military units with operational combat experience," Barkat told his citizens. "Possessing weapons increases the confidence of residents, who know that in addition to police, there are many people who are not afraid to intervene. If we look at the statistics in Jerusalem and elsewhere, we see that aside from the police, civilians carrying weapons have foiled terror attacks. They will increase the likelihood of fast intervention."