Police urge gun owners to carry at synagogue as terror alerts spike at High Holidays

Police note 15% rise in warnings compared to recent months, likely to rise further in lead-up to Yom Kippur next week; authorities encourage public to be extra vigilant

Police and security personnel at Mazmuria checkpoint, near East Jerusalem, where a Palestinian man attempted to stab police officers, September 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Police and security personnel at Mazmuria checkpoint, near East Jerusalem, where a Palestinian man attempted to stab police officers, September 18, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Police on Monday encouraged licensed gun owners to carry their weapons to synagogues over the High Holiday period, as the security establishment registered a rise in terror alerts in the lead-up to the Yom Kippur fast day.

Police said in a statement that there has been a 15 percent increase in terror warnings compared to the two months before the holidays and that security forces were at a heightened alert level due to the threats.

Licensed gun owners were urged “to carry their gun in these times.”

The police statement said the number of alerts will likely rise further in the lead-up to Yom Kippur, which begins on Sunday evening.

“Therefore, we call on worshipers who have licensed gun to bring them to prayers. In addition, we call on the public in general to be aware and report any unusual incident in real-time to the police 100 hotline,” the statement read.

Police also said they were monitoring a concerning rise in Palestinian online incitement to carry out attacks.

Monday saw an attempted stabbing near Jerusalem and three separate shooting attacks against Israeli forces in the West Bank, the military said.

Police officers on horses patrol Jaffa Street in Jerusalem on September 15, 2023, on the eve of Rosh Hashana. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, an explosive device went off in Tel Aviv’s Yarkon Park in the early hours of the morning. There were no injuries. Two suspects were later arrested on suspicion of involvement.

In the lead-up to Rosh Hashanah, police made the unprecedented move of ensuring there was someone armed in every synagogue in Jerusalem due to the heightened terror threat.

Gun control in Israel has traditionally been relatively strict, with licenses generally only granted to those who can show a need for extra security in their line of work or daily life. Citizens in nearly all cases can own a single gun and only 50 bullets at a given time.

But far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, an advocate of relaxing the laws, has moved forward with easing ownership regulations, claiming having more licensed gun carriers could help combat waves of terror attacks and criminal gun violence that police and security forces have struggled to contain.

Critics have warned that increasing the number of firearms comes with significant risks, including suicides, violence against women, road rage incidents, and murders. According to data from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, of the 32 women murdered with firearms between 2019 and 2021, nine were killed by people with licensed guns.

The High Holidays run through the first week of October, until the end of the Sukkot holiday.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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