Guard Duty

November 15, 2023, Israel


The security guard, the unsung hero.

I have been spending time at military bases lately. The first step is to get in, and this should not be simple. This is a base; the soldiers are certainly well armed, but we must make sure that no unwanted outsiders enter. It is the task of the guard, the sentry, to prevent the infiltration of unwanted and potentially dangerous guests. 

But it is not only military bases. In Israel we have learned from experience, very bitter experience, therefore in Israel, if there is a door, there is a guard. Every school has a guard post which looks like the tower from a game of chess. Every school has armed guards and gates. Every shopping center has a metal detector and armed guards at every entrance. Every office building, the airport, universities, the bus stop, the train station, have armed guards. The entrance to every town in Israel has a guard station, you will have to stop your car, open your window and allow them to look around and ask some questions. Throughout Israel there are checkpoints where cars will be stopped and heavily armed guards in full military gear will inspect you and your car. This is how we must live. This is how our army protects us. 

I was recently in Germany. We drove to Denmark, there was a little both separating the two countries, it was empty, we drove right through. But this peace came at a heavy cost, 65 million people lost their lives during World War Two. The Allies led by the USA and USSR saved Europe, otherwise Europe would be living under a military dictatorship with guards everywhere. 

The guard is often regarded as the low man on the totem pole, the pawn in the game of chess. When one is assigned to guard duty it is rarely accompanied with feelings of joy. It is perhaps the most dreaded task, and yet the most important. 

The job of the guard is not easy. He must keep everyone safe while fighting off boredom and fatigue. Standing at a door for hours is not easy. He must remain alert while avoiding all distractions, he must be focused even when nothing is happening.

I have a friend who is an anesthesiologist, i.e. the doctor who puts one to sleep before surgery so that the patient feels no pain. He described his job as "endless hours of boredom punctuated by moments of crises. I feel that he has described perfectly the job of the security guard.

The security guard, as we said, is like the pawn, the low man on the totem pole but yet the most important. He is responsible for the lives of everyone inside the facility. They can do their jobs because he is out there controlling the gate. Like the anesthesiologist the job is usually uneventful. I have friends who have worked as guards at our mall for many years. In the 20 or so years that our mall has existed there have been, thank God, no attacks, no unwelcome intruders. Obviously, the vast majority, if not all, the people, who enter the mall, are like me, just regular people coming to do their business. We are not any threat. We get a superficial look over and are allowed in.  For the guard, it is easy to become complacent, it is easy to feel that everyone coming in is just a harmless shopper, after all, nothing ever happened here. It is easy to be drawn into a state of routine and casualness. 

Like the street cop, it is rare that something "exciting" happens. I was told once that the average police officer, in a 25 year career, has not once drawn his gun. as such, it is easy to become complacent. 

But yet, one can never become complacent, and this is the true challenge of being a protector, not to be lulled into a false sense of security. As we say, "The Guardian of Israel never rests nor slumbers". (Psalms, Chapter 121, verse 4)

הנה לא ינום ולא יישן שומר ישראל

That is our motto, when you are on security detail, you must never rest, you must never slumber, you must always be alert and ready, never fall into a state of relaxation. Like our anesthesiologist, the boredom can be suddenly punctuated by moments of crises. and it is for this moment that we train so hard. As it is written in the Scroll of Esther, "Perhaps it is for this moment that you have come to power" (Esther, Chapter 4, verse 14) (i.e. for this opportunity to help your people God has placed you in a position of power and authority).

מִ֣י יוֹדֵ֔עַ אִם־לְעֵ֣ת כָּזֹ֔את הִגַּ֖עַתְּ לַמַּלְכֽוּת

It only takes one moment of distraction, of not paying attention, for disaster to strike. 

The villages of southern Israel felt secure. Yes, they were close to Gaza, but still, you know, I mean, really...what can happen, nothing really to be worried about. On Saturday morning one member of the village leaves, as his car approaches the gate to exit, he uses his remote control to open the gate. But he was not paying attention. He did not notice that at the early hours of Saturday morning there were several pickup trucks with a bunch of guys dressed like the Teenage Ninja mutant Turtles carrying AK-47s and RPGs crowded in the back. He did not notice until it hit him. And I mean that literally, he was soon hit with a barrage of bullets and was killed on the spot. (there is a video, this is all true, of course the BBC probably has a different version). Now the truckloads of terrorists could just drive into the sleepy town and began murdering his friends, neighbors and family and setting fire to their homes. 

Be careful when you open the gate, be careful when you open the door to your home, be careful...always! for you are also a guard. We are all guards. 

We are all guards, we are the front line, wherever we are. Let us look at our driving analogy again. You can say, "Hey, I was careful most of the time, OK, so for one split second I turned to check my phone and just then that little kid ran across the street, sorry that I ran him over."

Yes, all it took was one split second of not paying attention, and a child was killed. So it makes not the slightest bit of difference that "most of the time" you were OK. This is not a math exam where you can pass with a score of 70%. When it comes to security the only acceptable score is 100%. 

We are on guard, all the time, we must remain alert, all the time. Opening the gate allows a truckload of bloodthirsty terrorists to enter. Letting down your guard at the mall can allow in a woman with a knife, or a guy with a bomb strapped to him. An innocent baby carriage can contain explosives. 

We are all on guard duty, all the time, everywhere. And the guardian of Israel neither rests nor slumbers....


Moshe Katz, 7th dan Black Belt, Israeli Krav Maga. Certified by Wingate Institute. Member Black Belt hall of fame, USA and Europe.

Understand the Israeli Fighting Mentality - Israel a Nation of Warriors by Moshe Katz


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