A few years ago during a day of cleaning and renovations at the office of the non-profit I was managing, we started cleaning a storage room that was so over-full that we had no idea what was in it. When we had cleared it out we found that there was a window opening into our store room from the neighboring house. On the bars of the window somebody had hung a cloth bag (from our side). I went over to remove the bag and felt something very heavy inside. I opened it carefully and saw a handgun. I had never seen a real gun up close before.
I was very alarmed. I called my co-manager, showed her the gun and together we considered what to do. It was clear to us that the gun belonged to the neighbor or to a member of his family and that they had hidden it here specifically so that it wouldn’t be discovered, or if it was, so that it could not be traced back to them. We weren’t sure about calling the police. We didn’t want trouble with the neighbors who – we now realized – must be involved in criminal activities. But we didn’t want the responsibility of leaving the gun in place and ignoring it. The rest of the staff began to realize that something suspicious was going on in the store room and that was a difficult development because as I saw it, the fewer people that knew about this the better.
Eventually, we did call the police and ask that they come quietly and undercover, but they arrived with great show of force in multiple vehicles, actually heightening our anxiety. A policeman shouted out, “Who called the police?” and that alarmed us even more, because now the whole neighborhood knew we were “snitches” and we wondered what would happen when the neighbor discovered his gun was missing. At the same time, I began to think about all the people around me;which of them had ever seen or even held a gun and fired it. Since I was working at a binational organization, I realized that all the Jews who had served in the military had experienced something so far removed from me and my life experience.