I’m wrapping up nearly a week in Israel. This has been my first trip to Israel and I am proud that ACI-NA has organized this annual airport security field trip three years in a row and we will be coming again next year. The original plan was to write a blog every day or two, but as it turned out I wanted to leave the post honoring Bill DeCota up top as long as possible.
We just received a briefing on counter-terrorism to wrap up the official part of the visit. We are now on a bus heading north to Caesarea, which is filled with history dating to Roman times and is on the Mediterranean coast.
We began in Jerusalem with a series of briefings with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Security Agency. We got a great sense of the political situation in this part of the world. While we were at the ministry, former Sen. George Mitchell was also there for a series of far more important sessions.
Sunday afternoon we visited Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial and museum. I’ve been to the museum in Washington, and have also visited Auschwitz and Birkenau. Yad Vashem is a unique experience. One can readily see that the Nazis kept extensive records of what they did; they wanted everyone to eventually know. How anyone can deny it, well it is hard to understand.
Monday we spent much of the day at Ben Gurion Airport hearing about and viewing security measures taken there. One is really struck by the common sense approach to risk management. The approach probably doesn’t transfer directly to America. The idea that we need a common sense approach to risk management, that various agencies should coordinate while also respecting clear lines authority and, importantly, the all this must be done with an eye to customer service and facilitation of travel; these are ideas and concepts we can apply much better.
That afternoon, we toured the old city of Jerusalem. This was one of the great thrills of my life. Standing in the room where the Last Supper was held, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the spot where Jesus was crucified, walking THE stations of the cross, seeing the tomb of David, praying at the Western Wall and seeing the Temple Mount/Dome of the Rock; that was a thrill that is hard to describe. We walked through all four quarters: Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Armenian.
On Monday, while we were doing this, the whole nation was focused on, and grieving for, the death of Asaf Ramon, the young son of Ilon Ramon, Israel’s first astronaut, who was killed in the Columbia shuttle
disaster. Young Ramon was killed in a training accident. So sad.
On Tuesday, we moved from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv and returned to the airport for a further tour, followed by a day and a half of visits with various Israeli companies who are building, and in some cases pioneering, various security and airport operational technologies.
We also had a visit to the Defense Ministry for an interesting meeting. One thing you really notice here is how many very young women are seen in military uniforms. We have young women in the military in the U.S. of course, but not to the extent here where the service requirement is universal.
This is an incredible place, and I will make sure I have more time to really experience more of the country and its people.