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Driving through terror: Israelis learn to survive highway attacks

"We are trying to prevent and to fight terror before it happens," said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, which sponsors the course.

Communities in Judea and Samaria have been signing up for the driver's survival course. Credit: Shurat HaDin.
Communities in Judea and Samaria have been signing up for the driver's survival course. Credit: Shurat HaDin.

Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria are lining up to take a driving course that teaches survival skills in the event of a terrorist attack on the road.

Courses began a month ago and 10 have been taught so far, with 24 additional communities requesting the course.

“In each community, we’ll teach it two to three times. We teach 20-to-25 people at a time,” said Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, head of Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, which sponsors the course.

Darshan-Leitner admits it’s a little off the beaten path for her group, which specializes in the legal battle against terrorism.

“Shurat HaDin usually fights terror after it happens, filing lawsuits against the perpetrators and their supporters. This time, we are trying to prevent and to fight terror before it happens,” she told JNS.

“But we cannot sit idly by when the terrorism is rising and escalating on the roads. And we decided to take it upon ourselves and to raise the funds and the resources for these courses.”

The lesson proceeds, with Shurat HaDin President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner (center) in attendance. Credit: Shurat HaDin.

During the four-hour training session, participants drive through a simulated gauntlet of tennis balls, paintball guns, water balloons and burning tires.

While it may sound far removed from the rocks and real bullets that Jewish drivers in Judea and Samaria must contend with, Darshan-Leitner said the course, led by professionals, provides enough verisimilitude to get the point across.

“The tennis balls and water balloons imitate rocks. They feel and sound like rocks against the car. The paint gun sounds very similar to real guns. The burning tire on the road really is a burning tire,” she said.

The main goal is to get away. Participants learn they can drive over a burning tire and can continue even with a flat tire. “They put you through what feels like a real terror attack to give you confidence to push forward rather than stay back or refrain from driving,” she said.

In the case of the Dee family, when a mother and two daughters were murdered in April, the driver lost control of the car and hit a tree after which the terrorist approached and fired 22 bullets at point-blank range, Darshan-Leitner noted.

In another case, just over three weeks earlier, a man was able to rescue himself when he came under fire in his car. That man, David Stern, a former U.S. Marine, was able to draw his weapon, shoot through his windshield and wound the terrorist.

“We thought if people would be trained to rescue themselves in a terror attack, and not to lose control over the car, perhaps they, too, would be able to save their lives,” Darshan-Leitner said.

Credit: Shurat HaDin.

Stern is one of the organizers of the course. “He comes and speaks to the people and sets an example. We’re not teaching how to shoot. That’s not our job. We are teaching resourcefulness,” she said.

Darshan-Leitner wants the government to help fund the courses.

“This is an emergency course, so we wanted to start it right away. And the government would never have gotten it done. They’re too slow and bureaucratic to initiate something like this. But now that we have it going, they should fund it because I believe it’s their responsibility.”

She said that regardless of whether the government helps, her group intends to continue the courses.

Darshan-Leitner has in mind to approach several ministries, including the Ministry of Settlements and National Missions, headed by Religious Zionism Party MK Orit Strock, the Ministry of Transportation led by Likud MK Miri Regev, and the Ministry of Finance under Religious Zionism MK Bezalel Smotrich, who is also a deputy minister in the Ministry of Defense with extensive authority over civilian matters in Judea and Samaria.

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