Mice Are Cuter Than (Some) El Al Employees

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One time I was going to Israel and at JFK was stopped to chat with one of the El Al employees whose job was to decide whether or not I’m a terrorist. He asked if I spoke Hebrew, what shul I went to (I patiently tried to explain to him about independent minyanim, but it didn’t go over that well) and then asked me what time candle-lighting was that weekend. At the time I lived in Iowa, so I said something along the lines of, “Hmm, well in Iowa City it’s about 5:30, but here in New York I guess it’s probably a little later? But I don’t know by how much, so maybe 5:45? I guess I should look it up.” About two sentences into my musing I realized that this guy had no idea what I was talking about. He was clearly secular, and just trying to guage if I was a “legit Jew.” I could just pick any time and say that was candle-lighting and he’d nod and tell me to have a safe journey. So I just firmly said, “5:48″ and was sent on my merry way.

Well, El Al security might be about to get way more adorable, with the addition of specially trained mice. They won’t ask you where you learned Hebrew, but they are really really good at sniffing out explosives. According to PopSci

The mice are trained to respond to the chemical traces of explosives in the air as a threat, prompting them to flee into a side chamber as if eluding a predator. Doing so triggers an alarm. More the one mouse must flee into the side chamber to sound the alarm, cutting down on false positives.

It may sound a bit strange, but these tiny security sentinels have a record that squeaks for itself. The device was tested last year in a Tel Aviv mall containing 1,000 shoppers, 22 of which were carrying mock explosives. The mice went 22 for 22.

Posted on February 3, 2011

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One thought on “Mice Are Cuter Than (Some) El Al Employees

  1. Susan Buchbinder

    How cool! Yeah for the mice! I always feel intimidated by the questions Israeli the security people, but I guess that is the idea, to see how people react under pressure.

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