The medley of small arms was an intriguing display. Spread over two wooden trestle tables like the cache of an arms dealer was an assortment of pistols and rifles. The fledging interest in Krav Maga had grown over the years culminating in this Israel trip as I endeavoured to learn as much as possible about the nation of Israel, the culture and language of the Jewish people and what it was about them that made them a resilient and fierce warrior people.
“To think of using a gun to defend yourself is a wrong frame of mind.” said the instructor, an armed response unit veteran. “You do not shoot to defend yourself, you do not shoot to repel or wound. You shoot to kill and any hesitation will jeopardise your life and the life of those who you are trying to protect.”
“Look at this mother***ker,” he carried on, pointing to a target of a Fedayeen. “He has come to kill your friends; he wants soft targets and he does not care if it is a school, a shopping mall or a restaurant. He wants as many casualties as possible and that’s not all. He may be rigged with semtex wrapped in nails and ball bearings.”
“Every second counts. Every second is an opportunity to save a life. Once you get a clear target, stabilize your stance, both feet firmly on the ground, get good grip on the weapon and fire. And you don’t stop until he stops moving.”
Looking across the targets outlined against the wall of sand were a few unarmed Arabs, mostly elderly men wearing kufiyahs.
“See them,” continued the instructor pointing to the unarmed targets. “They want us dead too, but we are professionals, we only kill the terrorists.”
These men were indeed professionals; each instructor was an armed response unit veteran and leading expert in their field. However these men did not come across as military machines but very much as human beings. One of the instructors in his spare time was working with youths with learning disabilities and training to be a rabbi to be able to teach his faith and values to these youths. This was in addition to raising a young family. He described how his kids were accustomed to always seeing their dad at home with the guns and the stress and of knowing that a call out may result with the news that their father was in hospital or worse. Another instructor had Taekwondo in Korean letters tattooed on his forearm. This man was known as Cheetah because of his martial arts prowess; I was told that he was recently married.
Firearms’ training was a completely separate echelon to just training in self-defence techniques with Moshe Katz in his neighbourhood located in the West Bank city of Maaleh Adumim; a city liberated after the Six Day War. Despite the being a predominantly orthodox Jewish neighbourhood I found the inhabitants very welcoming and open minded. I never saw a single gun totting settlers baying for blood.
The culture of the orthodox Jews in many ways reminded me of fundamentalist Christians with sombre, traditional European dress and traditions and values centred on prayer, religious study and the family. Interestingly it was in the north west of the country that a fundamentalist Christian sect called the Templars laid the foundation for many early Zionists and established early industry and transport in the region. These Templars were a German Lutheran sect and later many were deported by the British for affiliation with enemy powers, the Ottomans and later the Nazis.
I do not look to biblical wisdom and prophesies but rather draw on the visions of contemporary secular prophets like Herzl, Begin and Jabotinski to rationalize my love and support for the nation of Israel. However I find certain mysticism in Hebrew, the same language and text used by Moses and Elijah to write their revelations. It is a language which I learned mostly through own self-study. I am not particularly religious but I understand the sentiments of wanting to base one’s life on values and traditions that come from higher authority. As long as not used for political expediency and strategic advantage, I believe all faiths should be respected.
“There is a lever inside the Glock trigger and if you just give it a gentle squeeze it will release the firing pin. Then slightly ease off and squeeze again gently.” The instructor demonstrated with three shots fired rapidly into an exceptionally tight grouping on the target.
“You have to be gentle with the trigger not to deviate too much from your target.” he continued. “Like teasing a girl’s nipple during foreplay, you don’t want to be too rough.”
Bursts of semi-automatic fire rang out in staccatos as paper Fedayeen were perforated multiple times with 9mm holes. This time I was shielding a VIP behind me with one hand whilst returning fire.
“Squeeze my forearm tight.” The instructor told me as I took aim with one hand. “Now I want you put two shots into him.”
I fired off two rounds one handed all the time squeezing the instructor’s arm behind me with my free hand. I was surprised to see the second shot almost penetrate the original bullet hole.
“Now put three shots into him,” continued the instructor. “Now three more, now empty your clip into him. Blow his brains out the back of his skull!”
The bullet groupings from the one handed burst were unprecedentedly tight, many of the holes stacked onto previous ones. Maybe gripping the VIP tightly with my free hand took my mind off and relaxed my trigger finger, I don’t know but I was very pleased with the result.
I made a short sprint towards cover.
“Reload and return fire!” was the instruction.
Releasing the magazine I inserted a new clip using the Israeli fast reload method taught. I peered round the corner aiming and let off multiple shots at the terrorist.
“You are trying to aim,” said the instructor “at this range you don’t aim you just point and shoot. Use your instinct. Whilst you were taking aim he would have put a bullet in your head.”
The training journey of Krav Maga has taken me many places; I have met many interesting people, made many great friends along the way and expanded my world. The experience of training with counter-terrorist elite in Israel, the Nation of Warriors, has got to be one of my most treasured memories.