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Learning From The Israelis

As you know I was in Israel last week and came back home on Sunday. From time to time, I've posted here about how much more efficient, less intrusive, smoother and rather noiseless the Israeli airport security system is, and certainly in comparison to the American one. First of all, you don't have to take off your shoes; and, if I recall correctly, there's no regimen about the permissible three ounces of liquid and the impermissibility of four. There's no one bellowing at you about your computer, your ticket, your jacket, that bottle of water you mistakenly brought along. It's true that sometimes your bags will really be scrutinized. But that will be because you've actually raised a question in the mind of the very polite interviewer who has a query or two to ask before you check-in. This last time, seeing how many Israeli stamps there were in my U.S. passport, my questioner asked me if I spoke Hebrew. I said "k'tsat," which means a little. That lead us into a longer line of queries which apparently I passed.

Otherwise, my luggage would have been picked through until the security officer was satisfied. Or not.

There are apparently many techniques and pieces of machinery that El Al Israel Airlines uses both in Israel and outside that we Americans ordinarily don't. On the other hand, I simply don't know what in El Al's methodological arsenal Delta or Continental avail themselves in American airports. But I am confident that security at Ben Gurion Airport is everywhere the same.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of homeland security, announced today (as reported in Reuters) that the U.S. will begin to employ unobtrusive methodologies that detect suspicious behavior and intentions which have been employed at Ben Gurion and other Israeli public facilities for years. And ditto for a whole range of hi-tech mechanisms that reveal explosives or other destructive chemical and biological agents.

Some of the difference between Ben Gurion (whose architect was my good friend Moshe Safdie) and, let's say Logan or J.F.K. or Newark is what I would think of as elementary design work. At the airport in Tel Aviv you bring yourself and your carry-on into a room that widens and where the machines that scrutinize you and your small baggage are designed as a fan. So you actually fan out to be inspected rather than cram in to a narrow passage where...well, nerves get rattled and...let's not think the worst.