But is it good for Israel?

I’m not a fan of Sacha Baron Cohen. I never saw his movies and I never watched the shows. All I really know about him is based on video clips I’ve seen here and there.

The problem is that I like the **idea** of Sacha Baron Cohen. I like the fact that he holds up a funhouse mirror to society and calls out hypocrisy and shows a certain group of people that their beliefs taken to absurd conclusions are very likely based on false foundations.

It’s meant to be funny (granted, sometimes it is), but it’s more often uncomfortable, rude, upsetting, horrible, and ultimately sad (I’m thinking of Borat in a bar in Texas getting everyone to join him in singing “Throw the Jews Down the Well.”)

So now we’ve got Baron Cohen’s new show on Showtime – we get clips in Israel – featuring the Israeliest Israeli Erran Morad. This is from an Associated Press article.

“The reaction has mostly been astonishment about the accuracy of the portrayal. He really got some of our traits down,” Einav Schiff, a[n Israeli] TV critic, said with a chuckle.

“Everyone here knows an ‘Erran Morad’ but I haven’t recognized any outrage or embarrassment about the character. It’s mostly been ridicule for these Americans who have fallen for him,” Schiff added.

I’m Israeli enough to appreciate the spot-on portrayal (it’s quite good), but I’m American enough to be dumbstruck by the words coming out of his mouth and shocked that US politicians are not catching on.

I’m stunned that anyone would believe that Israel has a “Kinderguardians” program that advocates arming kids starting at the age of 4.

Now read that again. I’ll wait.

Do you for even a second believe that it’s a good idea to put weapons into the hands of a 4-year-old? And would you endorse a program that advocates arming children? I think the clear answer – even if you admire Israel and even if you are proponent of gun rights – is a resounding NO.

Now let’s say you don’t care one way or the other about Israel or gun rights. Let’s leave it as a wild card if you know of Sacha Baron Cohen and let’s let Youtube make suggestions based on your previous viewings. You like funny stuff, so the video clip comes up.

So you see this guy (definitely foreign, so probably, as he says, Israeli) saying all kinds of absurd stuff with a straight face and he’s believed by legitimate congressmen and leaders. So you’re left with this impression of a bad-ass, crazy Israeli who advocates guns for toddlers. And since you also know that the Israeli Mossad is the top intelligence agency in the world and the Israeli army is one of the best, maybe Israel really does have a Kinderguardians program.


This show is probably not good for America, but I’m not convinced that it’s going to do a lot of good for Israel either.

(Prepare barf bags if you have a sensitive stomach. You’ve been warned.)

There is no debate about guns in Israel

When people visit Israel they see 18-year-old soldiers carrying M-16s casually slung over their shoulders. They see guards at supermarkets – checking you when you go in, not when you go out. Metal detectors are everywhere. I work at a museum. There are both guards and a metal detector. You see armed guards on public transit. You also see private citizens with pistols tucked into their waistbands (most often covered with an untucked shirt).

You might think that Israel is a heavily armed society. And you would be totally wrong.

One statistic stood out to me this week: the number of privately owned small firearms per 100 residents by country. The US has 101 guns per 100 residents. Israel has 7.3. The number 2 country with 58.2 guns per 100 people is Serbia. No matter what the margin of error might be, it is an astronomical difference.


After the tragic school shooting in Florida this week, I had a few conversations about gun ownership. Israelis across the board cannot believe how easy it is to get a gun in the US. Here are a few things I found out:*

  • Israelis do not have the right to own a firearm
  • Israelis must request a license for gun. In order to qualify, you have to prove a need for a gun based on your job or where you live
  • If you have served in the army, you are eligible for a gun license at 21. If you have not served in the army, the age is raised to 27
  • If you prove the need and you pass the medical and psychological exams, you are sent to an expert who determines what kind of gun suits you
  • You are required to take a gun safety course
  • One license = one gun
  • You have to go to a shooting range at least every six months to keep up your shooting skills
  • You have to renew your license every three years
  • Soldiers in basic training are forbidden from leaving their gun anywhere. It has to been on their person at all times (even while sleeping, I’ve been told). The consequences of losing a weapon include serving time in military jail
  • Soldiers in the reserves may be able to lock up their gun and leave it at home, but they need it to be under two locks (for example, a locked cabinet in a locked room; I don’t think the front door counts). This rule may also apply for personal gun ownership too

Israel has soldiers and guards to protect against terrorism, not crime. Israel has low rates of personal crime (as I’ve mentioned before) and in general Israelis feel safe. We depend on our army – filled with the sons and daughters of everyone we know – to protect us against threats to our national security.

Yesterday, Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, suggested that the US should follow Israel’s lead in preventing mass shootings. Putting in more guards might create more jobs, but I can confidently say that it is unlikely the US would impose any of the restrictions Israelis have on gun ownership.

Israel is a country of approximately 8.5 million people. It’s small, but we still have plenty of problems to deal with and debates every day on how best to handle any given situation. Personal gun ownership is not even on the radar.

*Please leave a comment if anything I’ve written here is inaccurate.