From rolling pins to selfie sticks, Israelis get creative for protection

Pepper spray is best, says self-defense expert, followed by tactical batons. If they’re sold out — improvise

Simona Weinglass is an investigative reporter at The Times of Israel.

An employee at a gunsmiths and indoor shooting range in Tel Aviv shows pepper spray to a customer on October 13, 2015 (Jack Guez/AFP)
An employee at a gunsmiths and indoor shooting range in Tel Aviv shows pepper spray to a customer on October 13, 2015 (Jack Guez/AFP)

Amid this past week’s onslaught of terror attacks in Israel and particularly Jerusalem, Israelis are desperately seeking any way to defend themselves from terrorists armed with knives and axes.

In the past week, civilians have successfully helped to subdue terrorists using nunchucks, umbrellas and selfie sticks.

Israelis have turned to social media for tips and sometimes comic relief concerning how to protect oneself.

At least one Jerusalem woman was photographed carrying a spray bottle containing oven cleaner. Another rode the bus with a rolling pin, while a man was seen with a frying pan tucked into his belt.

"Neutralizing Corps” reads this image showing methods used to subdue stabbers (From the Facebook page of the Eretz Nehederet satiricial TV show)
“Neutralizing Corps” reads this image showing methods used to subdue stabbers (From the Facebook page of the Eretz Nehederet satiricial TV show)

Sarah Bronson, a resident of Jerusalem, wrote humorously on her Facebook page, “Does anyone have a toy lightsaber I can borrow, the kind that lights up? …if I appear to be crazy I might be a less attractive target for stabbing.”

“A Darth Vader costume is the way to go,” replied one of her friends, “dark forces battling dark forces.”

According to Eyal Daniel, co-owner of Haboleshet Spy Shop in Tel Aviv, there is a nationwide shortage of pepper spray.

“This morning, before we opened, there were people lined up outside. We sell out of it as soon as we get it.

“We try to bring more, but now every grocery store is ordering it as well.”

A woman purchasing pepper spray in Tel Aviv (Simona Weinglass/Times of Israel)

Tallie Lieberman-Levy, a resident of Tel Aviv, updated her Facebook status on October 13: “So there’s no tear gas anywhere and I’m on the waiting list for pepper spray.

“But there’s AXE,” she wrote, next to a photo of deodorant spray. “It might confuse the terrorist, and it has a nice, fresh scent. Where am I living for goodness sake?!”

One satirical web site, Hatzinor, asked people to send in photos of their improvised self-defense methods.

Any weapon is better than venturing out empty-handed, as demonstrated in three separate incidents on Monday and Tuesday.

On the evening of October 12, a Palestinian attacker boarded the 185 bus in Jerusalem, stabbing a soldier and taking his gun to try to shoot the other passengers. Two passengers fought the struggling terrorist as he grabbed at the gun while choking the soldier with a strap. That’s when Yair Ben-Shabat passed by and saw the commotion. He boarded the bus and hit the assailant with nunchucks he had been carrying for self-protection. The terrorist released the strap and Ben-Shabat helped hold him down till police arrived.

On Tuesday October 13, a terrorist employed with Israeli phone company Bezeq rammed a company car into a Jerusalem bus stop, then got out and began stabbing the people he had wounded.

Matan Choucroun was driving nearby and jumped out of his car, grabbing pepper spray and a selfie stick.

“I saw the terrorist had fallen to the ground and a civilian was aiming his gun at him. I said shoot, shoot, but when the terrorist started getting up, I sprayed him and hit him over the head with the stick,” he told Israeli news site NRG.

In a third incident on Tuesday, in the central Israeli town of Ra’anana, a 22-year-old resident of East Jerusalem came to a bus stop on the city’s main street and started stabbing a man waiting for the bus.

“I heard someone screaming, ‘He’s dead, someone’s killing him!’” Mickey Ruhani, who owns a real-estate office nearby told NRG. Ruhani grabbed his umbrella, ran over to the terrorist, and managed to knock the knife out of his hand. As he fought with the terrorist, two more passersby ran over and together they wrestled him to the ground. The victim, a 32-year-old man, was stabbed in his upper body and doctors defined his condition as light.

All three men have been hailed as heroes on Israeli social media, and jokes about citizens using unconventional and surprising methods to fend off attackers are making the rounds, partially in effort to relieve tensions at a time when attacks are so frequent that many Jerusalem residents are afraid to leave their houses.

“Now that’s what we call Selfie-defense,” one person wrote of Choucroun’s actions.

But the threat is serious, and not all self-defense implements are created equal.

Luc Schwab, a military self-defense trainer who lives in Netanya, told the Times of Israel that after reading on Facebook about people planning to carry knives for self-defense, he wanted to warn the public against it.

A woman arms herself with a rolling pin (Facebook)
A woman arms herself with a rolling pin (Facebook)

“In Israel, carrying a knife in the streets can get you up to five years in jail.”

The best weapon by far, said Schwab, is pepper spray.

“People sprayed with it have trouble walking, seeing and breathing for an hour afterward.”

He suggested also carrying a long umbrella, or better yet, a tactical baton.

If you can’t buy pepper spray, Schwab said, you can make your own with Tabasco sauce and other spicy oils and put it in a small spray bottle or container. If you ever have to use it, aim for the assailant’s eyes, nose and mouth.

Schwab said stun guns were not an ideal option as they require physical contact with the attacker. Some do make a frightening noise, but that may prove to be an insufficient deterrent.

By far, Schwab stressed, the best defense is to get away. Always be aware of your surroundings. If you’re cornered, drop to the ground on your back and kick the attacker with your legs. Better to be stabbed in the legs than the upper body.

Schwab offered a mnemonic of self-defense principles — DOCS: Distance (keep away from the aggressor); Obstacle (between the aggressor and yourself); Cover (to protect yourself from ammunition) and Surprise (to disrupt the aggressor’s action process).

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