Shaken by Ukraine’s turmoil, Kiev Jews form self-defense force

Members of Kiev’s Jewish Self-Defense Force train at the a Jewish school on May 21, 2014

JTA — At an empty Chabad school near the banks of the Dnieper River here in Ukraine’s capital city, six uniformed Jews with handguns and bulletproof vests are practicing urban warfare.

Leading the May 21 training is a brawny man who at irregular intervals barks Hebrew-language commands at the men to test their drilled responses to different scenarios, including “ma’atzor” (firearm malfunction) and “mekhabel” (terrorist).

The men, who belong to Kiev’s newly formed Jewish Self-Defense Force, all have some combat skills from the Israeli or Ukrainian armies or background in martial arts, but they are clearly rusty. Living in a country that had been at peace since World War II, they hadn’t expected to have to use their skills to defend their local Jewish community.