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Israelis Still Take Jobs As Guards

November 6, 2002

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JERUSALEM (AP) _ A week after stopping a policeman posing as a bomber during a drill, mall security guard Julio Magran encountered the read thing. He stepped in front of a suspicious man, shouted for shoppers to run _ then he died in a fiery explosion.

Security guards have become the front line in Israel’s confrontation with Palestinian militant violence. And it’s become a growth industry, joined by thousands of jobless Israelis and new immigrants, like Magran, a 51-year-old Argentine.

One guard, armed with a handgun, shot at a car that lurched onto a sidewalk outside a Tel Aviv dance club in May. The driver was killed as the car, packed with explosives, burst into flames. Others have shoved bombers away from crowded city cafes. A handful of guards have died, killed in attacks on buses or in shops and supermarkets.

``The moment the attackers manage to penetrate a city, it’s already a lost case,″ said Arik Arad, head of security for Israel’s Mall Association. ``Then it depends on how you respond to limit the damage.″

Despite the dangers, many Israelis are answering newspaper ads for security guard jobs, taking three-week training courses and waiting for gun licenses and background checks. There are an estimated 100,000 security guards in Israel, up from about 70,000 two years ago, before fighting began, according to Jack Halpern, CEO of the security division of the Shmira Group, which also makes alarms and other security equipment.

During the last two years, 84 suicide bombers have killed 298 people.

In the attack that killed Magran, a Palestinian from a West Bank refugee camp triggered explosives strapped to his body at a large shopping mall after Magran had blocked his way. The mall was in an upscale part of Kfar Saba, a town northeast of Tel Aviv.

Witnesses heard Magran shout, ``Terror attack, everyone run!″ Then, fire and smoke engulfed him and the bomber outside an appliance store. Another Argentine immigrant, a teenage high school student, also died, and more than a dozen people were hurt.

Magran, who moved to Israel a year ago and planned to marry a woman he had met here, was offered a job with a school food services company but turned it down.

``He wanted a more important job, to donate something to the country,″ said Mario Leiv, president of the Latin America-Israel Organization for New Immigrants.

A week before the attack that cost him his life, police conducted a routine drill at the mall where Magran worked. A policeman posing as a bomber carried a bag up to the mall, trying to get into the parking garage and several other entrances. On one of the attempts, he was stopped by Magran.

In Jerusalem, a city hit hard by suicide attackers, Dimitri Kazinik, a 19-year-old immigrant from Moscow, took a job as a security guard, also to satisfy a sense of duty. He stands outside of the Olive Restaurant for $750 per month.

``It is so important. All the lives of the people sitting inside are in my hands,″ said Kazinik, who worked as a bouncer in a pub back in Moscow. ``It’s dangerous, but it’s extreme. I love it.″

Inside the restaurant, Marcie Calm, 47, from Denver, felt safe. A frequent visitor to Israel, where her son studies, she notices more guards.

``It’s a sad reality of life,″ she said.

Security costs have punished merchants already struggling with an economic slump. In the coastal town of Herzilya, Moshe Rosenblum, the manager of the Seven Stars Mall, spends $63,000 per month on security, double what he spent before the fighting.

Some restaurants charge customers 50 cents extra for security.

Security firms have been improving training courses and prefer to hire those just out of the military. They are also working more closely with the police, receiving real time warnings of terrorist attacks.

Gil Mizrahi, 21, who stood outside of Cafe Cafit on Jerusalem’s upscale Emek Rafaim Street, said he could find no other work after finishing his army duty.

``In the newspaper job ads you see only guards. Guards, guards, guards,″ said the lanky man with a goatee and gelled hair.

At the same cafe in March, another guard shoved a Palestinian carrying a bag of explosives into the street. The attacker ripped at wires in the bag, but the bomb failed to go off.

Across the street, a ponytailed Ilan Hadad, 22, stands watch in front of Cafe Aroma. Five of his friends also work as guards. He looks into purses _ no matter how small _ and guitar cases and baby strollers and asks each person if they have a weapon.

``It always surprises me, the women with guns. There’s a lot of them,″ he said.

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