The question of whether the United States is prepared to combat terrorism on its soil is being asked with an urgency that hasn’t been seen since the days and months following 9/11.
IN THE WAKE of the recent San Bernardino terrorist attack and the seizure of a government building in Oregon by an armed militia, the question of whether the United States is prepared to combat terrorism on
its soil is being asked with an urgency that hasn’t been seen since the days and months following 9/11.
According to two former Israel Defense Forces soldiers and a New York-based activist, the answer is “No.”
In their estimation, the U.S. needs to adopt Israel’s strict policy of vetting anyone trying to enter the country, as well as mandate teaching people how to protect themselves.
Former lone soldier Jared Ben-Caro (Sgt. Res) made aliyah in 2006 at 21. He served in the IDF from 2007 to 2009 as a Lead Designated Marksman and Lead Anti- Tank/Personnel Missile Specialist in Paratrooper Battalion 890.
Ben-Caro is now part of the 6310 Special Forces Reserves, Jerusalem Brigade and co-president of the Friends of the IDF Young Leadership for Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey.
He told the Exponent that, contrary to the prevailing sentiment of many people in America, who feel they are being violated when being searched at airports, Israelis understand the importance of airport security.
“Our society is so afraid of singling someone out as suspicious, that we don’t single people out and it becomes a whole situation where we’re doing mass surveillance over everyone,” he said. “This is what becomes politically controversial. We’ve developed this culture that somehow it’s become offensive to have a security check.”
He said it really boils down to numbers. There are only 8 million people in Israel, the majority of whom are Jews. When someone gets killed, it often hits close to home. But in the U.S., with close to 319 million citizens, violence and terrorism does not have as much of an effect.
“The Jewish sense of community makes a big difference,” he said. “Again, a big part of it is changing the attitude and the culture. American people need to get into the mindset that security is not offensive.”
Count Brian Mast as one of those Americans who has changed his mindset accordingly. Mast, a 35-year-old Christian running for Congress in the 18th district in Florida, was a bomb technician in the U.S. Army for 12 years. He lost both legs in a Sept. 9, 2010 explosion in Afghanistan.
Mast donned an army uniform again when he served in the IDF during the month of January 2015. This changed his perspective on both Israeli and American security, he told the Exponent.
In the summer of 2014 Mast was living in Boston while pursuing an economics degree at Harvard. At this time, Operation Protective Edge was taking place in Israel; at the same time, there were numerous
anti-Israel protests in Boston, some near his home. One night, protesters got aggressive towards his family, which sparked his desire to help Israel.
“When I got home that night, I decided I was going to show support for Israel,” Mast recalled.
He immediately reached out to the United States Embassy in Israel and began to scour the Internet for a way to aid the Jewish State. He knew posting on social media was not enough.
“I was looking for a way to go and serve the Israeli military,” Mast said.
He was accepted to Sar-El, the National Project for Volunteers for Israel and served in 2015, with many soldiers treating him like a celebrity. It was a life-changing experience. He quickly learned that
Israel takes security much more seriously than America.
As soon as he walked into Ben Gurion Airport, he knew things were different. Unlike America, everyone is questioned. At Ben-Gurion, they look at nonverbal communication more than listening to answers.
“This is engaging that you are lying or telling the truth,” he said.
Mast believes such interrogation techniques need to be utilized in America, He noted that exponentially more people travel to the U.S. than Israel, yet few really feels threatened when they arrive here. In order
for this country to prevent terrorist attacks, he stressed, the system in which people are allowed in needs to be overhauled.
“Anybody coming into this country need to be polygraphed,” Mast said. “Entering this country” — referring to Israel — “and being grilled in that way, it kept me on my toes. It also showed me how serious they
take every single person that comes through their border.”
But what about protecting yourself from those who have already managed to enter the United States? In the shadow of 9/11, New Yorker Jon Loew founded Fuel For Truth to answer that very question. The
nonprofit organization aims to strengthen Israel’s image by providing young adults with the basic facts about the Middle East and the skills necessary to advocate for Israel.
Loew told the Exponent that one of the biggest problems in the United States Jewish community is people’s inability to protect themselves. Therefore, in October, he along with former IDF soldiers, launched a self-defense organization called The Legion, which teaches men and women self-defense and counter-terrorism training.
When the situation in Gaza and Israel intensified during the summer of 2014, there was a spike in anti-Semitic attacks globally, including in New York, which served as the catalyst to set The Legion into motion.
“The climate on college campuses has become more much more violent,” Loew said.
The Legion is not your typical self-defense class. It is a ninemonth course that meets twice a week and once per weekend. Half the time is spent in a classroom setting studying macro threats, the rest on situational awareness. The course costs $1,000, but all who complete it receive a $500 reimbursement.
“We’re looking for people that are committed to their own security,” Loew said.
The 150 people who applied for the program’s 50 spots were heavily scrutinized and vetted. Lowe stressed they do not want violent people, rather, those interested in learning how to protect themselves.
“Every person who graduates from The Legion is the last person somebody wants to attack,” Loew said. “We are not creating a patrol organization. We’re not training Jews to go out and guard synagogues. We want to change the thinking of Jews. Everyone should know how to defend themselves.”
The program has become such a hit that the next course will expand from 50 to 100 participants. There are even requests from other cities to host their own versions.
“We would just like to insert a little bit of reality,” Loew said. “Maybe one day Hebrew schools will teach self-defense and how to deal with violence.”