When I made aliyah nearly 17 years ago, the army rejected me. I was 34, married with two kids and a job, and too old to be properly trained, I guess. Plus it was at the height of the Russian influx of immigrants – there probably wasn’t even a spare bunk for me to sleep in.
Still, I’ve always felt I missed out on something by not sharing the army experience…even if just for a few weeks or months. Now, while I’ll never be able to have the privilege of eating army food or mopping the floor on base (I do enough of that at home), there’s one thing I could do outside of the army: fire a gun.
So when the online coupon site GroopBuy offered a 70% discount on an hour of instruction and 50 bullets at the Krav shooting range, I didn’t hesitate to click the “buy” button.
Krav is located in the basement of one of the typically drab industrial buildings in Jerusalem’s Talpiot shopping zone. I met my instructor, Talia, who took me even further downstairs to the firing room. I was accompanied by a larger group of more experienced shooters. Nevertheless, Talia gave all of us the same training, which consisted mostly of how to stand and hold the gun.
The other men (and one woman) nodded as Talia went through her list; I did too but I was missing about 50% of the content. My Hebrew is OK for basic conversation, but there were a lot of technical words I’d never heard of. Not a good idea when you’re about to shoot a gun.
The situation was made even more precarious by the layout of the room. I had imagined individual cubicles, walled on three sides – protection against novices. Instead, it was simply a large open space with the shooters standing shoulder to shoulder. Not a place where you want to hear “oops.”
I picked up the gun and it was clear I had no idea what I was doing. “Why don’t you sit down and I’ll help you once the others are done,” Talia offered. Good idea.
The more experienced shooters proceeded to fire off round after round while I sat in the back wearing protective goggles and noise reducing headphones. 20 minutes later, it was my turn.
Talia, it turned out, was an English speaker from Los Angeles, so there was no language barrier as she told me (repeatedly) “keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to fire – and don’t aim it at me!”
That would be a really big oops.
My hands were sweating as I let out my first shot. I missed by a long shot. The flash of gunpowder surprised me; the weapon jolted upward. “Not bad,” Talia said with a generous dose of California encouragement.
Over the course of the next 49 bullets I gradually gained confidence and actually hit the target 15 times (see the picture). By the end, I was already jaded, feeling like I was on a carnival midway aiming for spelunking rabbits.
Talia jolted me out of my deadly daydream. “If that had been a real terrorist,” she said, smiling, “he’d be dead.”
That’s when I realized: the Israelis who come to the Krav shooting range are not just having a good time – this is the real deal.
I walked out sobered but proud. I had entered a new stage of Israeliness. It wasn’t the same as the basic training our kids go through, but if I ever find myself needing a gun to stop a bad guy, I’ll know what to do.