Ultra-Orthodox Israelis form local defense groups

Following the massacres of October 7th, Ultra-Orthodox communities in Israel are establishing community defense groups.

By World Israel News Staff

The October 7th massacres in southwestern Israel carried many somber lessons – one of which was that vulnerable communities need rigorous preparation and defense strategies in place for potential terrorist attacks.

In response, 20 ultra-Orthodox communities throughout the country have started a program called Mishmar Ha’Am – The People’s Guard, to ensure protection and defense in case of sudden attacks.

This joint project of the Hareidi Institute of Public Affairs and Achim L’Oref enlists the aid of Hashomer Hachadash – a volunteer group helping to defend farms and ranches – in the training of volunteers in defense techniques with and without weapons and to assist with procuring weapons licenses for guards and trained participants.

According to program director and head of Defense Forces Patrol, Roni Ayalon Hirsch, ultra-Orthodox communities have up until now been seen as less protected and therefore, as vulnerable targets for terrorists.

In communities like Beitar Illit, there are as many as 2,000 citizens who have gun licenses but require training on how to properly use their weapons.

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The program is leveraging the experience of ultra-Orthodox Israelis who have served in the armed forces and who have assisted police in the past to train volunteers in defense and to inform the public on how to react during terrorist attacks.

Uri Arbis, who set up and manages a security group in Jerusalem’s Ramat Shlomo neighborhood, told Ynet: “The vast majority want to volunteer, even those who cannot draw a weapon. We want to be independent, so that even if the police don’t come, as happened in the south, we won’t be like sheep to the slaughter. All the rabbis in the neighborhood are very supportive.”

Mishmar Ha’Am has already received an enthusiastic response and has set up centers in Jerusalem’s Har Nof and Ramat Shlomo neighborhoods, the towns of Givat Zeev, Beit Shemesh, and Rekhashim; along with ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods in Haifa and other cities.

It is also noteworthy that the Rebbe of the Hasidic dynasty of Viznitz has requested the establishment of the program in his Bnei Brak community.