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Israel’s Airports

With all the talk about airport security going on, I keep thinking back to my trip to Israel a few years back. They don’t make you take your shoes off or worry about liquids. What they do instead is interview each and every passenger with seemingly benign questions. It quickly becomes apparent that they don’t really care where you went to nursery school, but instead are interested in how you respond to the questions.

Anyway, I’m glad to see The Toronto Star pick up on the Israeli method, outlining security measures at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport. Here’s a nice peak at what it’s like as you actually go through the scanners:

“First, it’s fast – there’s almost no line. That’s because they’re not looking for liquids, they’re not looking at your shoes. They’re not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you,” said Sela. “Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes … and that’s how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys.”

I’ve compared every airport security station I’ve ever been through to that experience and while it took a little longer and was a bit more invasive, I felt safe and they have a proven track record.

December 31, 2009

Comments

  • Alan Wolk says:

    Thank you Noah- for the Toronto Star link & for bringing this up.

    My wife and I often marvel at the fact that the very efficient Israeli system never seems to be an option in the US, particularly because it’s so much less expensive and so much more effective.

    Two very important things to note, however:

    1. Airport Security in Israel is a prestigious, well-paid professional job. The woman who asked you where you went to nursery school is likely to have an advanced degree in psychology and has many years of training.

    2. Israel relies heavily on profiling. They don’t treat all passengers equally the way we do over here.

    If I had to guess at the core of our reluctance to adopt the Israeli system it’s two-fold: (a) we love to rely on seemingly objective technology versus subjective human judgement and (b) the Israeli system would take at least a year to implement and we’re an instant gratification society.

  • Noah Brier says:

    Great points Alan. Hadn’t thought about the profiling thing.

    On the implementation, I agree, I imagine it would be next to impossible. For one, everyone who lives in Israel is military-trained by law, and I can only imagine that the training includes a lot of counter-terrorism/intelligence type stuff since that’s most of what the military does there.

  • Michael Litman says:

    Hi Noah,

    This is timely and highly accurate. I’m currently over in Eilat, Israel as we speak on holiday and am glad this is getting pick up. I’ve been travelling back and forward yearly for as long as I can remember and many conversations with friends over here are about the security procedures, opinion is divided. There’s a few schools of thought about this. Some say they don’t like the inconvenience of being asked mundane questions like where did you go to school and what is your local rabbi called. But I disagree with them as it’s precisely not what you say but how you say it that is often the giveaway. Others know and understand that the questions are actually somewhat irrelevant and they know what they are looking for when they see/hear it. It would make for a fascinating psychological study I’m sure.

    Let us remember that non-verbal communication accounts for over 90% of the message you are sending the interviewer. This is important.

    Plots of terror are I’d say a near (if not) daily happening for Israeli security to deal with. Suicide bombs were at one point a few years back a similar story. Yet it is somehow in the cultural fabric of the country to help those in need, pick themselves up and carry on. They seem to be made of stronger stuff perhaps through the alarming regularity of such atrocities.

    Thanks for sharing.
    @litmanlive

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