...What, then, does Israel's fight against terrorism teach the United States?
We contemplated that question on Saturday morning when Talia Adar, a reserve police officer, took us on a tour of the Old City while most of our group took off for a day at the Dead Sea. After a walk through the four ethnic quarters, we followed Adar through the security checkpoint that leads to the Western Wall—regarded as one of the highest-risk areas in the Old City. We walked through the metal detector, manned by two bored-looking guards. We dutifully emptied our pockets and placed our bags on the conveyor belt of the X-ray machine.
One guard chatted on the phone, the other watched impassively as Adar, dressed in civilian clothing, walked through the detector with her gun concealed under her jacket. The alarm didn't go off; neither guard asked for her ID. After passing through the checkpoint, Adar turned back around to face the guards. "Why didn't you stop me?" she demanded, pulling out her police ID.
Adar upbraided the guards for a full minute, as they meekly made excuses. ("Well, he's on the phone …" one protested.) As she lectured them, we thought about all the barriers, cameras, and sensors; we thought about the intelligence agents and informers; and we thought about all the wizardry, gadgetry, and gimmickry that Israel puts into stopping terrorism. Yet it could all come down to this: two bored guards at a checkpoint.
"Why didn't it go off?" Adar demanded, pointing to the mute detector, topped with a blinking red light.
"The alarm is broken," one guard replied sheepishly. "They haven't fixed it yet, but we're watching the light."