Who gets schooled in tactics, hand-to-hand combat, defensive driving and shooting? All by a team organized by a guy named Yehuda? If you guessed agents from the U.K.’s MI5 you’d be wrong. The correct answer is “West Bank settlers.”
The Cap’n and I were never “survivalists” in the U.S., and our idea of roughing it has always been Motel 6. We had the police to take care of us, and terrorist incidents in the greater Boston area were pretty rare. But life in the West Bank is different, and while we have every desire to live here, we know that there are certain safety issues one must be aware of besides just looking both ways before crossing a street.
To prepare ourselves a little better for life in this part of the world, we’ve been partaking in a course offered by the security services here in Efrat. It is aimed at people like us (new to the area, clueless, English-speaking, whose idea of a wild night is a post-election costume party at the neighbors’ house), and the other people in the class with us are middle-aged parents of kids who want to learn more about safety in our homes, around the yishuv (settlement), and on the roads.
Ehud, our primary instructor, is Israeli with experience in the army and post-army with anti-terrorism. He spent the first class outlining some of the issues we should be aware of in our unfenced settlement. He gave us a list of things we should keep in our cars, encouraged us to have informal drills with our families to get everyone into the mamad (secure room) safely, and what to do if we hear shooting in the streets. He told us the rules governing the Arab workers in our settlement, and gave us the security hotline number to call if there is any suspicious activity to report. He also told us about the first response team we have in the yishuv, and how they work in cases of emergency.
The second class was practical self-defense. I missed this one because it was the day after Bill was born and I was still not quite in fighting shape yet. The Cap’n went, though, and returned black and blue from drilling with another man in the class with 20 years of martial arts experience. I’m pretty well prepared for unarmed fighting, but the Cap’n passed on some practical suggestions related to knife fighting (i.e. keep the knife back rather than holding it out like a fireplace poker, and slash rather than stab).
The third class was defensive driving. We were encouraged to know our cars well: their braking distance, what sorts of obstacles we can drive over, and which we need to drive around. Ehud set up a roadblock of tires and cones for us to drive toward at high speed, and only slam on the brakes when he gave the signal, about 3 meters in front of the block; we then put the car in reverse and hit the gas again, since such roadblocks are often set up for ambushes. We drilled how to drive the car from the passenger seat if the driver is shot and wounded (grab the wheel with eyes on the road, push the incapacitated driver back in his seat, steer until a safe distance away from the gunman, then when ready to slow down, lift the driver’s leg and foot from the gas pedal and slowly pull up on the hand brake). We learned how to pull an incapacitated adult from the car (without throwing our middle-aged backs out), and practiced climbing from the front seat to the back seat to exit out the rear passenger doors (no mean feat in a straight skirt with a rear-facing carseat in the middle of the back). We drove over burning wooden boards, and through another block set up with road obstacles and rioting classmates armed with water balloons–a kinder, gentler version of stones. (Ehud tried to limit people to three water balloons per car, but we got a little carried away. When we were finished, the road was littered with the detritus of our “rioting” and looked like a toddler’s birthday party the morning after.)
There is one more class, which will take place at the range. A few people already have sidearms, and some of the rest of us will be acquiring them in the next few months. (The Cap’n and I will get a trainer and sidearms when Bill’s a little older and the madness of the spring holidays is over.)
My friend Rachel thinks we should go on Fear Factor after this class. (She particularly liked the driving through fire part, though it was basically a non-experience for us since we were instructed to drive normally and felt none of the thrill one might expect.) But like most self-defense courses, this is not meant to make us fearful, but to make us less so. The more safety-conscious we are, and the better prepared we are to deal with unusual situations, the safer we can feel living here.
Would I rather not have to take these classes? Of course. God willing, we’ll never have to use any of what we learn. But I think more and more that we live in a world (certainly a country) where this stuff is all relevant, and that we’re much better off knowing as much as we can how to keep ourselves and our children safe.
So until the Mashiach comes and Redemption begins, the name’s Bond…Jane Bond.