Israel is training 100,000 security guards.
public places, 60 percent are trained guards with
weapons and 20 percent are elite security personnel
who have gone through a month's training.
"The difference in staffing between peaceful times
and turbulent times is about 30 percent," said Yehiel
Levy, a vice president at Modi'in Ezrachi, a private
security firm that primarily supplies guards for the
government. "If we needed 70 guards at a specific
event during peaceful times, we would need 100
guards during times like these."
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
n a stuffy, sweaty gym in Caesarea, 10 pairs of
trainees face one another, their heads covered
with protective helmets, their chests belted into
white padded vests with red and blue dots.
At the count of three, each pair begins circling,
sparring and kicking, aiming for the opponent's
upper thighs or for the red and blue dots that
mark the opponent's lungs and chest.
The group is practicing krav maga, a form of
fighting honed by the Israel Defense Forces and
considered essential in identifying, battling and
neutralizing suicide bombers.
In the three years since the Palestinian uprising
began, security guards and personnel have
become Israel's fastest-growing industry. This
country of some 6.5 million people has 100,000
security guards and 300 security companies,
which have expanded their business by up to 30
percent during the last two years.
"Guards can stop or stun a terrorist," said Jack
Halpirin, CEO of Hashmira Ltd., Israel's largest
security manpower agency, with 8,000 guards on
staff. "That's a fact."
There are two kinds of guards: shomrim and
mekvtichim. Shomrim, the average guards who may
stand sentry at a bank, supermarket or mall, can be
age 20 to 60 and may or may not be armed, depend-
ing on the amount of training they've received.
Me'avtichim, or security personnel, are more
Israeli security guard Mikhail Sarkisov, 30, right, receives
highly trained guards who must be 30 or younger
congradulations from Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
and who typically come straight from the army's
for blocking a would-be suicide bomber last year.
The types of security guards being hired have
changed with the times. At Hashmira, 85 percent of the
is a 40-year-old company that focuses on
firm's 8,000 guards are younger than 40, and 90 percent
security in the public and government sec-
carry weapons. Before the
tor, primarily for Cabinet ministers, Knesset mem-
were younger than 40 and only half were armed.
bers and officials from the Defense and Foreign min-
These days, 30 percent of the firm's guards are
istries. With business up 30 percent, Modi'in's rev-
security personnel checking bags at entrances to
As Palestinian terror attacks con-
tinue, including last week's bus
bombing in Jerusalem, doubts are
being raised in some quarters
about President George W. Bush's
resolve and political will to see
through the peace-making effort.
Press statements by President Bush
and officials on the National
Security Council and in the State
Department have sought to assure
skeptics that the Middle East is still
at the top of the administration's
agenda. But questions remain
whether the United States will
threaten and then carry out threats
designed to evoke Palestinian
action, such as a removal of finan
cial support, a diplomatic break
with the Abbas government, recon-
sideration of support for a
Palestinian state and pressing Arab
nations to cut links to and cease
hosting terror organizations.
— Allan Gale, Jewish Community
Council of Metropolitan Detroit
enue also has risen, to $5 million a month from $4
"Our work has always been based on need," Levy
said. "We plan for the day when everything will be
peaceful and we won't need guards, but in our society
it doesn't seem likely."
What has changed in the industry is the public's
level of appreciation and respect for security guards,
as well as the interaction among the official security
forces — including the police and the army — and
the private companies that provide guards. "The
public has started to understand and appreciate
guards," Halpirin said. "They give more respect to
the guy who's checking the trunk of their car."
At the Caesarea training center, the trainees are
Israelis aged 22 to 31, primarily men, most of whom
recently completed their compulsory army duty in
Before they make it to the basic training course, they
have to pass a psychological test that weeds out about
half the applicants. Those who pass spend 10 days in
intense physical training, spending hours sprinting,
improving their hand-to-hand combat, practicing
shooting and simulating possible disaster scenarios in
the public transportation system.
Ten percent of those who have passed the psycho-
logical test fail out at this stage. If they do pass the
course, they sign an 11-month contract with the
Transportation Ministry; which hires most of the
country's elite security guards for the Egged bus
cooperative and the Railways Authority.
If they're working for Egged, they move from bus
to bus, standing at bus stops and keeping an eye out
for anyone or anything suspicious. They are easily
identifiable by their light-gray uniforms and dark
Being a transportation security guard requires con-
stant vigilance, keen observation skills and an ability
to remain on guard for 10 to 12 hours a day, six days
a week. Most of the guards can do it because that's
what they did in the army. Back then, they did it
because they had to; now, most do it for the money.
"This is what I know how to do best," said Elad
Tannenbaum, a lean 22-year-old who spent a good
chunk of his recent army service with 66 pounds of
ammunition on his back, doing house-to-house corn-
bat and guard duty in Palestinian cities after the out-
break of the intifada. "My mom doesn't like it, but
what else can I do?" he said.
Like many guards, Tannenbaum said he went into
security mainly to make some money. Many Israelis
who finish the army take a year off before college to
travel the world, and they need to make money
before their adventures.
Tannenbaum wants to get started with his under-
graduate studies at the Technion-Israel Institute of
Technology, the science and engineering university in
Haifa. That kind of no-nonsense attitude is exactly
what security firms are looking for in its guards.
"My clients tell me what kind of fighting units
they want their guards to have come from in the
army," Halpirin said. "Seven guards died in the last
year. We're civilians, but we face down the terror-