The phones have been ringing nonstop at the Gun Hill shooting range, following a week of daily knife attacks by Palestinians and a clarion call by Israeli politicians requesting that permit holders should carry their pistols on their hips to help protect the citizenry against terrorists.
"It's a mad house," said Yair Yifrach, general manger of the training centre and gun shop here at a Jewish settlement north of Jerusalem. Perhaps not the best choice of words for a shooting range. "But people are going a little crazy," Yifrach said.
Israelis are frightened by violent demonstrations and daily attacks by Palestinians, not only in the West Bank but also in the heart of Israel. Yesterday, Palestinians staged three stabbing attacks against Israeli civilians and police in Jerusalem; two of the attackers were shot dead, Israeli police said. One victim was a 13-year-old boy.
Yifrach, himself a gun instructor, supports the idea - as do most Israelis - that civilians who are veterans of military service trained in responsible use of firearms are a "force multiplier" on the streets.
"In truth, getting a gun permit in Israel is not easy, that's what I tell people," Yifrach said.
Most will not meet Israel's criteria, he said. In that case, he offers them "very, very strong" pepper spray.
Herzl Kabalo, head of the firearms department at the Ministry of Public Security, said there had been a sharp increase in the number of people requesting to renew permits or applying for new permits to carry a gun.
The spike in gun interest comes amid a spate of attacks by Palestinians against Israeli forces and citizens, assaults carried out by knives, stones and vehicles. In several instances, Israeli civilians have shot the perpetrators; in most, however, police and soldiers have done the shooting - sometimes in controversial videotaped events that Israeli human rights activists have called disproportionate and Palestinians have called extrajudicial killings.
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat was photographed last week carrying his Glock 40 with an Israeli-made Roni carbine extender that turns a handgun into a rifle, while in a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.
"This is something Israelis understand, appreciate and feel secure with," the mayor told AP. "In America and in Europe, if you see civilians carry guns you get scared. In Israel, it's exactly the opposite." Barkat was probably not speaking for the Palestinian residents of the West Bank or East Jerusalem, who are not allowed to own firearms, while Jewish settlers living nearby are permitted to carry.
"We can only expect that more violence and oppression will arrive in the coming days," Palestinian chief peace negotiator Saeb Erekat said about Barkat's call for Jewish Israeli civilians to carry their weapons.
"Against the cowardly Arab terrorism, a wave of Jewish courage is rising to defeat it," said Israeli's Education Minister Naftali Bennett. He applauded swift action by armed Israeli civilians.
There are now about 260,000 Israelis with permits to carry a firearm, or about 3.5 per cent of the population. Half are private citizens and half work for security firms.
Moshe Fidler, a retired police undercover detective, lives in Jerusalem and always carries his sidearm. But he did not think that widespread permitting of guns was the solution.
"You don't need to throw gasoline on the fire," Fidler said. "Guns are serious things. One split second of stupidity can cause a lot of damage."
Asaf Sela, an army veteran and resident of the Jewish settlement of Beit El, agreed that these days it was a good idea for all Israelis with gun permits to carry their weapons, but he stressed they should be properly licensed.
"A lot of untrained Israelis running around with weapons would be a big mess."
The latest violence
• Three stabbings in Jerusalem yesterday; at least 18 Jews have been attacked this month.
• A Palestinian was shot dead after he tried to stab an Israeli security officer near the Lion's Gate in Jerusalem's Old City.
• A border policeman was injured in a stabbing by a female assailant, who was subsequently shot and hospitalised.
• In the third attack, two Palestinian teenagers stabbed two Israelis in the East Jerusalem settlement of Pisgat Zeev, with one attacker, a 17-year-old, killed and the other, 13, shot and seriously wounded. The Jewish victims were a 13-year-old who was riding a bicycle and was critically wounded, and a 25-year-old who was seriously hurt, police said.
• On Monday, in the wake of the rockets fired at Israel from Gaza, the Israeli air force launched two strikes into the predominantly Arab coastal enclave. A pregnant Palestinian woman and her 2-year-old child were killed in the attack, Palestinian media reported.
• A 13-year-old Palestinian was shot dead in the West Bank during clashes with the Israel Defence Forces. He was the 25th Palestinian to be killed, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.