Getting to Israel

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02/09/2008
Those of you diligent readers of my monthly editorial know that I am now in Israel, having spent the better part of the last 24 hours getting here. I am traveling here as part of a tour package put together by Chameleon Associations and sponsored by Infrastruct Security (check out Andrew Wray's blog off that homepage, too) that will eventually bring us to many of the major security installations in Israel, as well as put us in front of a number of experts in counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism, emergency management, and general physical security. Over the course of the next seven days, I'll be providing reports on what I'm learning, what I'm seeing, and what the general atmosphere is here in Israel, arguably the most security-conscious nation in the world. Today, I saw many indications of how seriously Israel does (and doesn't really) take its security. First of all, upon arriving in the Newark airport from the Portland International Jetport (we can fly to Toronto, thus it's international), I found I couldn't go directly to my gate for the second leg to Tel Aviv. Why? Well, there's a second security checkpoint, independent of the one you go through to get to the gates area, just to get into the gate area from which the plane to Tel Aviv departs. This is Israel taking security seriously. You do not get on a plane to Israel unless you've been wanded and someone has looked through your bag. It's that simple. Then they check you in a second time, matching your face, your passport, and your ticket. This is Israel not really taking security seriously. The guy who wanded me got a beep for metal at both of my pockets (cell phone, keys), at my belt (belt buckle) and at my wrist (watch), but was completely uninterested in what was setting off the beep. I guess he was just trusting that it was unlikely that I had gotten a knife through the first security checkpoint, and therefore didn't need me to empty my pockets, but what then was the point of wanding me? Likely, just to make people feel safer. Similarly, the guy who pawed through my bag wasn't even really looking at it. He was just sticking his hand in there because it was his job. Still, as a deterrence measure, this treatment tells potential bad guys not to bother, I figure. Similarly, once we arrived at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, there was a security guy who "black-beaned" me (picked me out randomly, like the black bean in a jar of white beans -- what do you want from me, I just picked the term up. I didn't invent it) and asked me a few questions and looked at my passport before I even got to the passport checkpoint. Still, it was more of a formality than anything else. He either picked me because I looked like a dumb American unclear as to where to go, or because I was number 20. It's doubtful I met some kind of profile of a potential danger (although it's possible handsome guys with beards and stylish Brooks Brothers blazers have been identified as likely threats...). By the way, here's what Tel Aviv looks like from the air: Tomorrow, I'll get into the meat of the conference and have more to report, along with some video of the cool stuff we've seen at the Jerusalem bus station. Stay tuned (those of you surfing the SSN web site on a Sunday, after a couple of weeks of our site being down -- there must be dozens of you!).