Post 263: My meeting with a member of Yamam, special unit of Israeli Border Police on the 34 bus, International travelers recently ranked Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport as the world’s fourth best international airport in a survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler readers , Zucchini latkas with leftover french fries and tofu

My meeting with a border policeman was brief. First, a bit about the units that make up the border police, before describing the meeting.
I was not able to publish the photos below portraying death defying acts – yes the men in black from Yomam, part of the Israeli Border Police, are trained like circus performers.

(All photos © Ziv Koren / Polaris Images)

Ziv Koren gained exclusive access to the Israeli elite police unit, Yamam. This was the first time that the unit was photographed. The Yamam is capable of both hostage-rescue operations and offensive takeover raids against targets in civilian areas. It also performs SWAT duties and undercover police work. Most of its activity is classified, and Yamam operations are often credited to other units.

Koren’s images:
Ya gotta see!

1) “Monkey” squad soldiers specialize in hanging on a wire and surprising the enemy from above."Monkey" squad soldiers specialize in hanging on a wire and surprising the enemy from above.
2) Yamam soldiers training for a bus rescue with flames shooting out of the windows.

3) Yamam soldiers gliding from the roof of Azrieli Center towers in central Tel Aviv during special training.Yamam soldiers gliding from the roof of Azrieli Center towers in central Tel Aviv.

In Israel, the Yamam is also known as the “Unit for Counter-Terror Warfare” (Hebrew: היחידה ללוחמה בטרור‎). It is subordinate to the Ministry of Internal Security central command and is part of the civilian Israel Police force, specifically the Israel Border Police. Its operators and officers are professional policemen on payroll, usually with infantry experience from their military service within the Israel Defense Forces. Yamam recruits its members exclusively from Israeli units.

The unit is primarily responsible for civilian hostage rescue within Israel’s borders, but from about the mid-1990s it has also been used for tasks such as arresting police suspects who have barricaded themselves in structures and requiring specialized extraction methods, as well as in personal security for VIPs and in counter-terror operations within the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Yamam are schooled in basic Arabic and dress to assimilate within the Arab population to avoid detection in order to carry out raids to arrest those suspected of conducting terrorist activities within Israel.

However, most of the Yamam’s activity is classified, and published Yamam operations are often credited to other units.
The Yamam has around 200 officers, and consists of a headquarters element, an intelligence section and a small team responsible for the development of new operational techniques and testing new equipment.
Aside from these central elements, the bulk of the unit is divided into a number of sections, each consisting of five teams, each containing operators with a particular specialization, so that the section includes within its numbers all the elements needed for a successful operation: roping team, entry team, medic team, sniping team, K-9 team, EOD team (demolition and bomb disposal).
Thus, whereas an IDF special forces operation needs to assemble elements from different specialist units, in Yamam, they are all permanently part of the same unit, living, training and operating together.

Applicants for Yamam must be between 22 and 30 years old and must have completed their three-year infantry service in the IDF with a level 8 of IDF training or higher, although no previous police experience is required. Unlike American SWAT teams, the YAMAM is a professional unit with only combat duties and no other type of police work.
The selection process includes a “hell week” said to be one of the hardest in the world. This level of difficulty is achieved because all the applicants are already seasoned combat soldiers, many having served in elite special forces units during their compulsory conscription as well. The skills they are looking for in every candidate are: intelligence, physical fitness, motivation, trustworthiness, accountability, maturity, stability, judgment, decisiveness, teamwork, influence, and communication.

Training lasts six months and is carried out in the unit’s own training center, although some use is made of the facilities at the IDF Counter Terror Warfare School (LOTAR, Unit 707.) The course is divided into a three-month general CT training period at the end of which recruits are selected for their specialization and then concentrate for the remaining four months on that specialization. Upon graduation, individuals are posted to fill gaps in the sections.

Yamam considers that it has several advantages over the IDF counter-terror units, first, because the men are more mature, most in their mid 30’s and early 40’s, and spend much longer in the unit than the equivalent military units, and, second, because the units contain a far broader range of ages and experience.
The Yamam is self-dependent, training its own operators in all fields, such as sniping, reconnaissance, dog operating, bomb disposal, etc. As a result, the Yamam has a rapid deployment time and high coordination between various squads (sniping squad, entry team, engagement force, etc.).


M4A1 carbine

Barrett MRAD
Barrett MRAD Multi-role sniper rifle
Barrett M82A1 Anti-materiel rifle

Getting back to my meeting. After I boarded the bus I noticed an empty seat next to a black bushy bearded capped fellow. I could not help but notice an unusually bulky object at his feet. He moved the bag, with some effort, to permit me room to put my feet. Closer now that large object clearly was a back pack. It reached up to his knees and his hand was grasping it on the side near the top. I looked close at the nameless cap that was pulled down tight on his head. This was no Chasid out on the second night of Chanukah to meet some friends. The young folks on the bus were busy starring into their cellphones. Then I looked again at the back pack. I surmised that this was an “older” professional soldier returning home to the German Colony after some time in the field, not a lawyer on melium.

Wanting to appear casual I asked, before he straightened up,”Hi, that’s a heavy pack for a tiyul (trip)?”. He replied with a tilt of his head to get a better look at me. “It’s not a trip pack”. He then flipped open the top and exposed the opening of a weapon, a sniper rifle. My eyes must have widened a bit.The burley Arab Israeli worker in Gan Ha AtzMa’Ot that I see every day could have been his twin, sporting that same beard that reaches to the ear lobes.

He shared words about the need to be cautious at all times. I offered that I study Arabic and asked whether he was an Arabic speaker and he replied that Arabic was part of the training program. He shook his head when I asked whether he was placed in Hebron. I’m not sure whether the no that he offered was that he couldn’t answer the question or that he was not stationed in Hebron. He left the bus before I had time to ask any other questions. I guess in many ways these border police are like the scouts sent out by Moses.

“Moses sent them to scout the Land… and he said to them, “Go up this way… and climb up the mountain; you shall see what kind of land it is…” (Numbers 13:17,18)


Ben Gurion airport. (Photo: Anav Silverman / TPS)
International travelers recently ranked Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport as the world’s fourth best international airport in a survey conducted by Condé Nast Traveler readers.

Israel’s largest airport was chosen among 10 other international airports as the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards for 2015. Readers gave Ben Gurion Airport a rating of 7/10. On the magazine’s online version, Ben Gurion Airport was described as having “easy access from downtown Tel Aviv,” and for being regarded primarily as “one of the world’s most secure airports.”

Around 15 million passengers passed through Ben Gurion Airport in 2014 and it has consistently won awards for the best airport in the Middle East. The Condé Nast Traveler also described Israel’s national carrier, El Al airlines, as the “top dog.”

Zucchini ladkas with leftover french fries and tofu

2 medium zucchini (about 7 ounces each), coarsely shredded
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
3 large scallions, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh sheep-milk ricotta cheese/tofu
leftover french fries
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
Olive oil, for frying
Lemon wedges, for serving

In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, garlic, scallions, ricotta, eggs, lemon zest and 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir well, then stir in the flour just until incorporated.
Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. In a large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil until shimmering. Working in batches, add 2-tablespoon mounds of the zucchini batter to the hot oil, spreading them to form 3-inch fritters. Fry over moderately high heat, turning once, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain the fritters on the paper towels and serve right away, with lemon wedges.
MAKE AHEAD The fritters can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours and re crisped in a 325° oven.


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