Darryl Moody' s eyes widened as he entered the security control tower at Tel Aviv' s Ben-Gurion Airport. The half-dozen young women and men working there hardly noticed the small group of American visitors who had stepped into their workspace. Clad in T-shirts and jeans, the Israelis were bantering softly while checking video monitors and making notes. Cartoons hung from the bulletin board. This is not what I anticipated seeing,” Moody thought to himself. He was in Israel for the first time, for a conference on homeland security and behind-the-scenes tours of sensitive sites. Israel' s reputation for exacting security measures led him to expect something else. I had in my mind, you know, high tech, people in military uniforms, disciplined demeanor,” he told me. What I saw was so much more casual.” Still, he concluded, their approach evidently worked for them.
It was mid-2005, and for nearly four years, Moody had been working on security issues in the United States. He was a vice president of BearingPoint, a management firm hired by the federal government after Sept. 11 to work on enhancing border protection, immigration control, and other security-related issues. His responsibilities included helping to organize the newly established Transportation Security Administration and to improve airport security.
Moody knew that Israeli practices at Ben-Gurion were considered the gold standard for aviation security,” as he put it. While touring the facility he created a mental checklist of what he witnessed: the long serpentine road from the front gate to the terminal, massive space in the terminal, thick floor-to ceiling windows of bombproof glass, camera surveillance of cars being unloaded. Helpful as these features might be, recreating them in American airports would not be accepted, he believed. Too difficult, too expensive.
True, some American airports were being renovated to enhance security. Moody thought of Baltimore Airport, which was increasing the distance between entry and passenger check-in. Los Angeles International was restructuring so that parking would be a mile away from the terminal. But in general, he believed, U.S. air travelers were adequately protected by existing methods of passenger screening, x-ray and explosive-detection machines, and armed marshals in planes. Still, on the evidence, Israelis were not satisfied with U.S. procedures. El Al, Israel' s national airline, screens its own bags at four of the five American airports out of which it operates—Kennedy in New York, O' Hare in Chicago, Los Angeles International, and Miami International. At Newark International, El Al screeners may recheck luggage that has gone through U.S. detection machines. Isaac Yeffet, El Al' s retired head of security, said that El Al screening included the use of more sensitive machines and more rigorous questioning of passengers.
I asked Moody what he found to be different about Israeli procedures at Ben-Gurion. At first he said simply that the Israelis do more screenings. Then with a laugh he added, The main difference is in Israel they profile with a capital P. And they don' t hide that fact.” Darryl Moody is articulate. His smile arches easily across his round face. As an African-American, Moody admitted to keen sensitivity to the issue of profiling. He knows well that at airports and elsewhere in the U.S., singling out individuals for scrutiny based on racial, ethnic, or religious background is forbidden. All air passengers, regardless of age or other characteristics, must empty their pockets and remove their shoes and belts for inspection. Individuals undergo additional scrutiny only for cause or through random designation.
What did he personally think about profiling? I asked. In America we just couldn' t do it,” Moody replied. He sighed. The Israelis obviously think it is necessary, and it' s their country, he said. So if you don' t like it, don' t come to this country.” In fact, Israeli screening centers on an interview by a carefully trained inspector. Each individual is asked about the purpose of his visit, length of time in Israel, country of origin. One question builds on another. If the passenger' s answers raise concerns, he will be further scrutinized. Otherwise, he quickly moves through the screening process. No removal of shoes or belts. No routine confiscation of nail-files and scissors.
Moody thought back to the weeks after Sept. 11
when some of his colleagues said the U.S. should
just copy the Israeli methods of airport security.
Others objected that, besides the issue of profiling,
time-consuming interviews of passengers would
be unworkable because of the greater volume of
U.S. traffic. Moody believes that national pride
also played a part. He recalled that Australia
rebuffed his company' s offer to go there and
produce a biometric identification card for their
transportation workers. Rather, the Australians
asked him to explain the process, so that an Australian
firm could implement it. I found the same attitude
in every country where we' ve tried to provide
our expertise, Moody said.
In considering what Americans can learn from Israel' s experience, Moody' s reactions underscore three truths. First, while Israeli preparedness is commonly acknowledged as advanced, even the gold standard,” preconceived notions about Israeli practices may be inaccurate. The best understanding comes not from hearsay, but from personal observation. Second, not every worthwhile measure is easily transferable from one society to another. For cultural, political, or financial reasons, Americans might be unreceptive to certain practices. But third, refusal to learn from others, whether because of national pride or wrong assumptions, can leave a society more vulnerable. By understanding Israelis' experience with terrorism, from adjustments in their daily routines to the country' s emergency response procedures, Americans can better discern how to cope and save lives.
In the spring of 2003, Lawrence Levi” Lauer was strolling with his 14-year-old daughter, Anya, near their Jerusalem home. The Lauers live in a neighborhood known as Old Katamon, a charming residential area where balconies brim with red and yellow begonias. Street crime in Israel is rare and people have long walked with relative abandon. While the spate of Palestinian attacks that began in 2000 had caused some to hesitate, many Israelis, like the Lauers, maintained their routines.
Interrupting their amiable chat, Anya suddenly
suggested that she and her father change their
relative positions on the sidewalk. Dad, I think
you should be walking on the outside and I should
be on the inside. At first, Levi Lauer thought
she was merely observing a quaint tenet of western
etiquette: A gentleman should shield a lady from
the splash of passing vehicles. At least that
was what Lauer had been taught during his growing-up
years in America.
But etiquette was not on Anya' s mind. What if
a terrorist bomb should explode from the street?
she asked. If you died, I think that somehow I
would eventually get over it. But if I were killed,
I know you could never get over it.
Lauer had left Cleveland in 1976 to live in the Jewish state. Then 31, he was a rabbi in the reform, or progressive, tradition of Judaism with its emphasis on promoting social justice. After settling in Israel, Lauer continued to labor on behalf of the underdog—foreign workers, victims of human trafficking, the poor and needy. He was especially determined that Israel' s Arab population be treated justly. After the wave of Palestinian attacks began, Lauer' s list of people in distress expanded. At times, the number of terror victims and their families seemed to rise by the day. An organization he founded, Atzum (the Hebrew word for powerful), began to raise funds to help these new victims just as it was helping others in need.
Anya' s comment stunned her father. Sure, was
all he could say. He changed places with her,
anguishing in silence over how his child had been
impelled to such calculation. Was this what terrorism
had driven Israeli children to worry about? He
barely noticed the sun' s golden reflection on
the Jerusalem-stone homes along their way. Lauer
felt sadness more than fear about the effects
of the intifada. He and Anya kept walking.