With a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in the Los Angeles area in recent months, especially during the May conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israeli Defense Forces veterans have been helping police by protecting Jewish neighbourhoods in the city.
The project was launched in April by Magen Am, a nonprofit Jewish security organization, reported the Daily Wire.
Most of its team of 12 IDF veterans are lone soldiers, Americans with no immediate family in Israel who enlisted and served in the IDF. Others on the team are US military veterans.
The Magen Am patrol currently only operates in the heavily Jewish Hancock Park-La Brea neighbourhood. However, they hope to hire eight additional IDF veterans in July in order to place a team in the Pico-Robertson neighbourhood, which is home to the city’s other main Orthodox community.
While their aim is to protect Jews in distress, the patrol also aids non-Jews who need their help.
Leibel Mangel, executive director of Magen Am’s Lone Soldier Veterans Program, in an interview with the Daily Wire said that the patrol has so far responded to multiple anti-Semitic incidents, including two young Jewish boys who were attacked with paintballs on Shabbat and a 12-year old Jewish boy who was punched in the face while he was playing with his friends on Melrose avenue.
In response to the patrol’s help in arresting the alleged assailant who punched the boy, StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein wrote, “Thank you Magen Am for apprehending this violent man who punched a 12- year old Jewish child in the face on Melrose Ave, in Los Angeles. It is critical that we continue securing communities from within. Apparently this guy isn't getting out so fast!”
Mangel explained that the patrol is not a replacement for the police. Instead, they can offer a faster response time to certain situations. They also share intelligence with law enforcement agencies and have their own dispatch system that can connect to the 911 emergency system.
“Everything that we do is in constant coordination with law enforcement,” Mangel said. “We’re not a vigilante group. We’re not a bunch of cowboys. We’re doing things above board, the right way.”
Members of the patrol are specially trained. They are given handguns, tasers, pepper spray and handcuffs. They begin with security guard positions, such as guarding synagogues or Jewish schools. Eventually, as they learn about the community and its specific needs, they begin to go out on patrols.
Legally, they have to abide by security officer training guidelines. If they have to make an arrest, they are able to capture and handcuff a suspect until police arrive to take over.
On its website, Magen Am describes itself as a” non-profit organization dedicated to the creation of essential armed security teams within the Jewish community, comprised of licensed and trained community members whose purpose is to protect the lives of other Jews. Our mission is to train and empower the community to secure itself from within."
They assist “in securing our community by providing prudent and responsible security measures, training, and sustainable solutions. We understand that in order to create a secure community, more is required than simply inputting ‘outside hired guards’ as a Band-Aid, or by training citizens in defense strategies."