#RememberPoway: I Saw the Bullet Holes on the Door…

I shot a bullseye using a 9mm yesterday. 

No, I am not into guns. No, I am not taking on shooting as a new hobby. And no, I cannot say I was not nervous. 

I come from a no-gun culture. The first time I saw guns in real life was when I went to Beirut at age 18 and then during my trips to Israel. 

And then once in Texas, when I went to a shooting range and shoot some rifles in the open field. 

But holding a gun in my hands, knowing it is my responsibility to kill or not to kill – is almost a deliberating moment. 

Unless you want to kill, of course. 

Like John Timothy Earnest, who wanted to kill on April 27, 2019, during a Shabbat Service in Poway. 

That 19-year-old wanted to kill and livestream it to the world. 

But holding a gun in my hands, knowing it is my responsibility to kill or not kill – is almost a deliberating moment. 

Not for him and not for many others. And no, I just cannot imagine how you can hold a gun and know that now you will kill someone: someone’s mother, dad, brother, sister, friend. 

To kill a human being. 

Since the terror attacks are becoming normalized and since these types of shootings are handled as business as usual, our threshold for feeling anything at all is getting way too high.

When I survived my first terror attack in London, it changed my life. 

When I survived my second one in Brussels, it changed my views on my activism. 

And in-between, we had way too many attacks that made us accept our new reality. The first few times we cried, we were in shock. Then slowly it had less and less of an effect on us…we just cried wolf too often…

Yesterday, Alex – a young Jewish man who has been following my journey for some time – took me to shoot. He was calm and said safety above all.

I was not calm but agreed on safety above all. 

After an hour at the range, I asked him how far from there was the Poway Synagogue. 

“You want to go there?”

“Yes, please.”

He drove me there, and he could even take me inside. On the way, I asked him how he was affected by that day. 

The things he told me made me all torn up inside. 

Then we got there, he opened the door, and I imagined how John Timothy Earnest entered here on that morning shooting and killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye. 

I saw the bullet holes on the door. 

Then we walked further, and I saw the bullet holes on the other side. 

Earlier that day, I shot three bullets in one go. Already that was an adrenaline boost and made me shake. John Timothy Earnest fired at least eight shots that morning…

What most of you won’t know is that there were many kids in the shul that day. When they heard the shooting, they ran out the backdoor, and some of them ran as far that the parents thought they might have been kidnapped. 

These kids ran because the week before, there was a Krav Maga education in the house that taught them what to do. And the kids listened and acted. 

Imagine if they hadn’t…or rather don’t. 

I shot a bullseye with a 9mm yesterday. I left the range more confident. Not because of beginner’s luck, but because I want to know what to do if I see a gun if something happens, if I ever need to act. 

I am not a gun person. But if anything I’ve learned in this life – and through my journey with Israel and the Jewish people – is that ignorance is a death sentence. So I am trying to fight my ignorance in all shapes and forms.

And I hope you do the same.


Virag Gulyas

Virag is a digital communications strategist and personal branding consultant. She is also a loud pro-Israel advocate, the founder of Almost Jewish, a pro-Israel movement that aims to change the stereotypes about Israel and the Jewish people one day at a time.