We want failures
Today’s visit with the Chief of Security at Ben Gurion Airport was enlightening. It deepened our appreciation for what it takes to keep Israel’s airport the world’s safest. Our host told us that those under his command undergo some ten thousand Drills in an average year. This prompted one of the members of our New England ADL Counterterrorism Delegation to ask, “What is your success rate with these Drills?” He responded, “90%. But we want failures.”
Success is a good congratulator. But failure is a reliable educator. Mistakes can be our most memorable teachers. Two other features of Israel’s approach to airport security drive this home. First, whenever a terrorist attack occurs at any airport in the world, an Israeli team arrives and invests considerable time into learning as much as possible from the incident. Second, the average age of security personnel who interview us when we arrive at Ben Gurion is 23 or 24. Each of them is highly skilled and highly motivated. More significantly, however, each is a student pursuing an advanced degree.
Strong learners make the best security professionals. There is an average of four hundred cyberattacks on Israel’s airport each month. More than outsmarting the bad actors, those responsible for preventing harm need to outpace them as learners.
In the 1960s, an executive at IBM made a decision that ended up losing the company $10 million dollars (over 120 million in 2017 dollars). The CEO of IBM, Tom Watson, summoned the offending executive to his office. As the executive cowered, Watson asked, “Do you know why I’ve asked you here?” The man replied, “I assume I’m here so you can fire me.” Watson looked surprised. “Fire you?! Of course not. I just spent $10 million dollars educating you.”
May we make our mistakes into our teachers. And may our lessons learned keep us safe and seed goodness for a growing world.
Rabbi William Hamilton
Image: Chief of Security at Ben Gurion International Airport briefs our Delegation
Image provided by Rabbi Hamilton