Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Fun with Israeli Security

As I sit in Ben Gurion waiting on a delayed flight – which will cause me to miss my European connection – which may cause me to miss my Tzibburology shiur tonight – I can at least reflect on two pleasing interactions with Israeli security on this trip.

First: When our Air Canada flight approached Israeli airspace on Sunday, the pilot got on the loudspeaker and admonished people to use the washroom, put all of their bags away, and generally take care of any needs they might imagine having, because no one would be permitted to leave their seats for the last half-hour or so of the flight. He stressed it and repeated it, as did various flight attendants and members of the crew, with more seriousness than I have ever heard a flight crew use.

Why? Because, as he explained and the crew reiterated multiple times, “This is an Israeli security measure.” [I understand that El Al does not do this, of course.]

They said it with such awe and reverence, it could only remind me of that scene in Dragnet (audio here):

Joe Friday, of the LAPD: And you've forgotten you're facing the single finest fighting force ever assembled!

The Villian: The Israelis?

And, of course, it also reminded me of this CNN.com-hosted article on Israel's air security, one of many such articles to appear in North American media in the past two weeks.

And the second moment, when I arrived at a hotel for a meeting and the security guard asked, אתה חמוש אדוני? (“Are you carrying a weapon, sir?”)

I was very impressed with myself; it’s like when you’re studying in Israel after high school and, for the first time, someone on the street mistakes you for an Israeli and starts asking for directions. Wow, they think someone would trust me with a weapon!

I was tempted to answer, “Only my wits, ma’am.” If I were Jack, I probably would have said that. Instead I just smiled, which was probably the right thing to do, because she was serious even if I wasn’t.

I shouldn’t be that pleased, anyway; someone at my meeting noted that it could just be I have “the settler look.” Ah, well.


  1. Sometimes even I have enough common sense to keep my mouth shut. Rather not be unnecessarily interrogated.

    Have a safe flight my friend.

  2. I heard lots of stories from friends about missing flights, etc., for giving the "wrong" answers to security inspectors at the airport when trying to leave for spring break. When I finally left the country after 8 months, I ha a great time coming up with the most ambiguous possible replies to the questions trying to determine whether I was Jewish (and could thus walk right through) or a non-Jewish tourist (who would be detained and harassed).

    "Did you study Hebrew before you came here?" "I only knew a little, but boy I learned a lot here!"

    "Do you have any family members living here?" "Not yet, but someday..."

    But then, I'm a smartass.

  3. Jack-
    How do you determine which times are which?

    I'm pretty sure it's actually the opposite - the Jews are the ones who get harrassed...

  4. Jack-
    How do you determine which times are which?

    Same way Harvey Dent does. ;)

  5. A few years ago, the standard interrogation at BG Airport was asking my kids' names:
    "Do you think you know them from the army or something like that?"