Eretz Yisrael Time

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Sunday, April 30, 2006
I occasionally wonder about the differences in attitudes between the US and Israel regarding security. I’ve come to the conclusion that Israelis have become somewhat blasé about it while Americans don’t understand it all.

Certainly we see this when the US requires that we release captured terrorists or remove roadblocks for peace, and Israel then complies, but it actually affects Americans more directly at home.

Israelis know what to do about security, and usually they do it right. On the other hand, there is also this “yihiyeh b’seder” attitude which seems to prevent them from going that extra mile and taking some security matters very seriously for extended periods of time.

To me this explains how Palestinian kids walked into Bat Ayin and stole the guns from sleeping soldiers, why, too often, you see soldiers manning checkpoints not looking as attentive as they could be, and other security infractions that that I need not mention here.

I just had to fly in and out of the US and I witnessed a very disturbing scene at the Kennedy x-ray station.

What I found disturbing is I too have experienced my own version of this scene which leads me to believe that the US has absolutely no clue how to protect its citizens.

A young, religious, Israeli mother was carrying her sleeping baby in a sling. I asked her about it afterwards and she explained that it was because she knew she had to put the stroller into the x-ray machine, and this way she didn’t need to disturb the baby.

As we all stood there sans shoes, the security bureaucrat told her to take the baby completely out of the sling before she went through the metal detector. She didn’t want to as it would wake the baby and he would start screaming. She explained she would either beep or not, whether or not the baby was on her.

The security bureaucrat (not a native-born American, mind you) was insistent and threatened to have her strip searched if she didn’t comply. She didn’t actually understand the threat, but her husband did, and he took the baby out, which immediately began to scream and cry and they walked through.

There are three points that disturbed me (there are more, but 3 is enough for here).

  1. The guard threatened to strip search her, not because he thought she was a threat that required it, but rather as a threat to get her to comply to his bureaucratic instructions.
  2. This woman’s long flowing dress was far more conducive to hiding a weapon or explosives (which the metal detector can’t see anyway) than the baby sling was. If there really was any suspicion then he should have had her fully checked.
    (If they were seriously concerned that the machine couldn’t detect metal between the mother and baby, then at least just have her loosen the sling and hold the baby a little out without overly disturbing it.)
  3. He was incapable of making any decision on his own whether or not this rule made any sense, or how to modify it to fit the situation.

My own experience was when there was apparently a warning that laptops might be used to transport a bomb onto the plane.

So after having our laptops x-rayed we were told to bring it over to the table for a physical examination.

The examination consisted of opening the lid. That’s it! I asked the security bureaucrat, “You know I have a keyboard and screen here, you saw it on the x-ray. Don’t you want to turn it on to see if the battery and hard drive are real?”

He said no, those weren’t his instructions. I said, “But if they told you to check laptops, how else do you have half a chance to see if the components are real and not explosive mock-ups?”

Again he responded that those weren’t his instructions, next.

If I wasn’t flying El Al, I would have felt a certain amount of trepidation on that flight. (Just so you know Ben-Gurion security occasionally spot checks laptops, and they always make you turn it on if they have a suspicion).

After 9/11 there was a (true) story of a baby who was taken from his mother for a more serious security examination – because the baby (not the mother) was the next one to be checked in their numbered sequence. As I recall (perhaps not correctly), the mother was detained for protesting.

These US “guards” are incapable of properly fulfilling their task. They receive instructions and mindlessly fulfill them, no matter how idiotic, inappropriate, or incomplete they may be. They don’t add, they don’t subtract, and they certainly don’t use any common sense.

How safe can it be to fly on a plane from the US (or be a soldier in Iraq) when the bureaucrats in the field are given inadequate and even stupid instructions by the bureaucrats in the office, and no leeway for common sense (if they have any at all)?

I just came across these related links:


Anonymous said...

Welcome Home!

I agree that minimum wage jobs workers are not going to secure US airspace or anywhere else!

Yet, I disagree very much with your forgiveness of the Israeli behavior. If the rule is that the baby must not "be tied" to a parent in a security check , so JUST follow the rule. Why do people feel they are above the law. Let her write a letter to the PA (Port Authority- not to be confused with something else..) of her complaint- after she unties her child.

Rules or rules. Our culture here has to stop feeling that rules are for fryers. (Even if she is your wife |:))

Son of Deer

JoeSettler said...

Thank you.

How'd I know you would be the reader standing up for the "rules"?

I am anything but forgiving of Israeli behavior, but a baby in (or out of) a baby sling is not a potential security hole. If it were you would see B-G security being uncompromising in the matter.

It is a sign of the idiocy of the TSA (not PA) that they are clearly not testing their rules in the field, nor considering actual security risks.

The TSA rules are designed so they can be implemented by the lowest common denominator - and as you pointed out that is a very serious security risk.

I am much more concerned that they don't have you turn on the laptop, which is a real security risk.

I am also tired of taking off my shoes and belt every time I fly.

As for my wife, as a locally born Israeli she definitely considers rules to be more like guidelines. I suspect she would react similarly in that situation.

I'll find out after she reads the blog.

aliyah06 said...

Last time we flew to Israel, we had to turn on the laptop coming and going. (El Al)

Time before that, we went British Air and were the only ones pulled out of line and interrogated (bearded husband in kippa, me in long skirt and tichel). NO one's laptops, carry-ons or shoes were examined.

I flew to NYC from the west coast and had to empty my backpack before being allowed to board because they thought I was carrying a 'throwing star.'

It was my badge. Idiots.

Lady-Light said...

You are so right! the US doesn't really know what it's doing, security-wise; I would venture to say that, the idiocy you are describing aside, it is still politically-incorrect to racially profile; thus, even though the majority of terrorists are Islamic Middle-Eastern types, a little old lady will be profiled (because she just happens to be number 12 on the list!)while a Middle-Eastern looking man between the ages of 18 and 45 will be allowed through.
Talk about scary!
I am also VERY disturbed about the complacency of the Israelis which you describe. I have a personal stake in Israel's safety, in addition to just 'being a Jew'. Don't most of us...

Anonymous said...

For YEARS i have been screaming about american stupidity. In fact i was detained at that very same airport for a remark on this.

They basicaly use the muscle factor. "lets just search everyone head to toe and it will be ok"

Yet as a israeli if you use your trained eye take a look at the airport infastructure. look at the gates surounding the run ways. curbside checkins. security and service exits. procasinating security guards..

See richard the shoe bomber had a bomb in his shoe so now everyone needs to x-ray his shoes.

If say some terrorist stuck plastic explosives up his butt. well you get the idea.. they'd be pointing flashlights up our rear ends.

They need to take after israeli. gate in the entire aorport complex, search cars when they come in. seal the friking exists!

Mass manpower does nothing to stop a determind terrorist who is either too smart or too stupid and will get in.

JoeSettler said...

Speaking of flashlights, I flew right after 9/11 and they were doing rather personal pat downs on everyone (men and women).

They only stopped it after a lot of women complained and threatened to sue the TSA.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand here is a different twist on this story.

I was just told about a Lakewood kid who came to Israel. He happens to have friends that are Kachnikim. Oooh. Scary.

When he arrived in Israel he was detained at the entry for hours by the police who were, well I don't know what exactly, but they felt his friends made him a security risk.

Good thing ISM comes in and out of this country freely.

Anonymous said...

wtf... i have hundreds of kahanist friends.. i never got detained.... not even once! the cops know me head to toe.. the kid is probably BS'ng

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