AJC Westchester Blog

Project Interchange – Counter-Terrorism Trip – Day 2

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Day 2 was complete immersion into the security needs of Israel.  We had four experiences.  Though much of what was said cannot be written on a public blog, I can write in a general way about what was said.

  1. Suicide Bombers – We started the day at 8:30 a.m. with a briefing on suicide bombers.  A few important points:
    1. The phenomenon of the suicide bomber came about as a tool in the mid’90’s and until 2006 was being used very effectively.  Although it was less than ½ of 1 percent of the attacks on this country, it resulted in 50% of the casualties.  We heard multiple times today that the security fence, coupled with greater intelligence and police work, as well as the efforts of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, is what has basically eliminated that.
    2. Suicide is forbidden by Muslim law.  This is not considered suicide, though; it is considered martyrdom – the act of giving your life for G-d.  People fervently believe that being a suicide bomber will send you straight to the highest level of heaven where 70 virgins await you.  It also applies to your family.  Those Muslims who subscribe to this see this life as meaningless and short – a prelude to the eternal life to come, which will be infinitely better, the more you follow Allah’s laws.  Very hard for Westerners to understand this.
    3. Their interviews basically showed that suicide bombers are those that are not fitting in to Palestinian society and see this as a one-shot way of achieving acceptance and honor.  The culture supports this by rewarding the bomber with gifts to his family and posthumous praise in the form of songs, images on TV, posters, etc.  The day after the bombing is a day of celebration in the family home – akin to a wedding.
  2. Airport Security Briefing – We spent three hours at Ben Gurion Airport receiving a very detailed briefing on their security procedures and taking a behind the scenes security tour.  Ben Gurion is a mid-size airport with 12.5 million passengers a year going through and entering/leaving on 150 airlines.  It’s not as big as LAX or JFK but still quite big.  They act according to the three principles:
    1. Common sense security which depends on exceedingly intelligent and alert passenger security personnel who use profiling.
    2. A preventive and proactive approach at the same time that assumes a threat can happen at any time.
    3. They protect both the front and back door to the airport.

I was specifically asked not to share the details of the security.  What I can say is that the participants were literally blown away by not only the incredibly high level of security, but also the thoughtfulness that goes into making these decisions and the very high level of efficiency achieved.   They said that compared to the States, security here is on a whole different level.  One said he was embarrassed to go back to his home airport.

The new Ben Gurion Airport, built in 2004, has not only been recognized for its high level of security, but also for its service and design.  It is rated as one of the highest level airports in the world.

  1. Meeting with Major General Giora Eiland at the Institute for National Security Studies – This was a briefing on Israel’s strategic environment, which looked at the countries in the Middle East and how they affects Israel.  They expressed concern about the directions that the post-Arab Spring countries will take.  It also focused on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  The group was extremely impressed with this high quality and frank briefing.
  2. Meeting with General Nitzan Nuriel – This briefing focused on the new threats that are on the horizon, some of which are caused by the incredible proliferation of information on the Internet from Google Earth and other sources.

What was fascinating to me was that each presentation ended in a similar way.  I call it the “Yihyeh Tov” ending – after the David Broza song that goes through the hard things Israel is experiencing but says don’t worry… “all will be good.”  Each of them ended by saying how beautiful life is in Israel and what an amazing country has been built, despite all of the difficult things that were just said.  The group is indeed impressed with Israel thus far, but I think that the yihyeh tov mentality takes getting used to.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, there is action now between Gaza and Ashdod.  Our first speaker remarked about the annoying road closures that he experienced on his way to Tel Aviv as a result.  In the eyes of one of the participants, the fact that the rockets did not faze the speaker but the traffic did, was fascinating.

Below are some pictures from today:


Written by Scott Richman, AJC Westchester Director

October 30, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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