I'm a writer, not a fighter

 - 
02/14/2008
Well, I have to admit that I was mildly troubled by the morning paper today. As you might imagine, Hizbullah (it looks like they spell it with an "i" and a "u" here; not sure if that's universal, but I'm guessing the Israelis are the most acquainted with them) is not overly thrilled about their second in command getting blown up yesterday. Hizbullah legislator Ismail Sukeyir said, "Hizbullah has the right to retaliate anywhere in the world and in any way it sees fit." And where did we go today? That's right, north to Haifa, which lies just 50km south of Lebanon and was attacked by rockets daily during the Lebanese war in 2006, in which Hizbullah played a large role. In the end, today was indeed action-packed, but only because of our dialed-in tour leaders, and not because of any kind of immediate retaliation. The video should be attractive for those of you with military and law-enforcement backgrounds today: You saw there Yaron Klein, manager of security for Haifa Port, which is actually four private ports collected into one government-company-run port for the purposes of security. As with every security manager we've spoken with here, Klein uses the concepts of security rings and profiling to secure his facility, but he has the added burden, like many ports back home in the United States, of trying to figure out what's in the 2,200 containers that flow in and out of his facility every day. It's a nearly impossible job. Because of an attack that almost succeeded just recently, Klein's 350 guards open every empty container and use a laser sighting tool to make sure that each container interior measures either 20 or 40 feet. Why? Because two terrorists hid in an empty container with a false back wall. When they got inside the port of Ashud, down the coast, they cut their way out and then killed themselves with a suicide bomb, trying to blow up chemical materials but failing. For all other containers, Klein must rely on imaging technology and the trustworthiness of the seals on the containers, which are verified by all shippers via email before they are allowed to pass through the gates. Klein is constantly profiling the containers: do they have holes, did they come from a new shipping company or a sketchy foreign port, did the captain sound funny on the radio? And, of course, Haifa Port must screen the thousands of passengers that come through in a similar manner to the way that Ben Gurion screens its passengers. It's still not enough, however. Haifa Port is embarking on a $222 million shekel (roughly $70 million) security upgrade that will be completed in 2013. The port is growing and accommodations need to be made in order to keep up with the traffic. A quick uptick in traffic was at the heart of Dr. Moshe Michaelson's presentation at Rambam Health Care Campus, which has the largest trauma unit in the north of Israel and was literally under fire during the 2006 war with Lebanon. Not only did the center treat many of the soldier casualties, but Kotusha rockets were raining down into Haifa all around the hospital, thus bringing in many civilian casualties and forcing the hospital to set up an underground trauma center in the basement, lest the doctors and nurses treating the casualties become casualties themselves. I won't go into too many details of their mass casualty planning, as it doesn't apply to many of you, my readers, but they did offer one lesson that I think any flexible organization must apply: Strict rules need to be replaced with a mechanism for quick decision making. People must be empowered to be predictive, constantly imagining the worst case as a situation develops, and they must be allowed to create new procedures on the fly. Planning is important, but so it realizing when you had a bad or inadequate plan. They also emphasized the importance of training and "red-teaming" (testing), much like their security counterparts. The hospital runs some kind of trauma-related or security-related test 7 times a day (yes, a day). Dr. Michaelson has participated in such testing in the United States and said we are lacking a sense of reality in those tests: "You Americans put red shirts on critical patients and green shirts on non-critical patients and then tell people to practice triage. This is only practice if you are color-blind." Well, I'm not color-blind, but my ears are definitely ringing after the second half of the day's activities: A visit to the center where Israeli security guards and military special forces are trained. Again, I'm not going to go into much detail, as most of you don't often take on hostage situations, but suffice it to say that the Israelis practice their hostage situations as well as their mass-casualty situations. One thing you didn't see in the video? I played the role of a hostage-taker in a Munich-style apartment, then watched two soldiers repel into the window and shoot me in the face with guns firing very loud blanks. I jumped about five feet in the air. The trade show that followed was mostly full of products that are more military and guard oriented, like weapons and VIP protection training and tools, but these companies seemed like they might make good dealer partners: Elkat, which sells a number of solutions, but looked most interesting for its voice analyzer, allowing you to sell lie-detection as a service. That might come in handy. Green Vision Systems, which uses cameras to detect minute particles in the air and act like a sniffer. If you're working with any large building with a ventilation system, these guys could give you a nice way to prevent airborne agents from causing havoc. So, what do we do for more action tomorrow? We'll be heading to the Golan Heights and the Syrian border. The good news is that you'll get to see video of tanks!