By all accounts, the three young women sitting before me, all officers in the
Border Police’s K-9 Unit, lead unusual lives.
During the day, they take
part in vital security operations around Jerusalem, with specially trained dogs
that sniff out explosives, arms and drugs. On other occasions, they are called
to riot zones, where, in extreme situations, the muzzled animals will pin down
Molotov-cocktail-throwing rioters, without causing them physical harm.
night, however, two out of the three go home to husbands and young children.
“That’s our second shift,” joked St.-Sgt. Maj. Avital Gamliel, 29. “When
I go home to see my child, I relax.”
“Both of our husbands were in the
Border Police, so they know where we are coming home from,” said St.-Sgt. Maj.
Moriah Sharavi, 28.
The youngest of the three, St.-Sgt. Adi Felix, 20,
runs through the daily incidents the officers face.
“When we get to a
riot where rocks are being thrown, we consult with local commanders on the
ground and our own commander before we think about sending in the dogs,” she
said. “Even if we are asked to send them in, we may decide not to.”
don’t have set hours. We could be on a four-hour ambush mission, or mobilized at
any time to an incident,” Felix added.
On a grassy patch in Border Police
headquarters, situated at the foot of the east Jerusalem neighborhood of
Isawiya, the officers demonstrate how a dog pins down an officer pretending to
be a rioter.
Upon command, the surprisingly friendly looking animal
changes modes instantly, and leaps with great speed at the target, pinning him
to the ground.
In real situations, such action enables security forces to
arrest or subdue suspects they could not otherwise reach in the chaos of a major
The officers stress that the dogs were specially trained by
them individually, for six months, at a police academy in the Druse village of
Usfiya, where they bonded with the animals and studied veterinary medicine and
Sharavi even admitted to watching an occasional
episode of The Dog Whisperer. “I like it. The things they teach in it are
correct,” she said.
DIFFERENT DOGS are used for different types of
missions; patrol dogs are not the same animals that sniff out explosives or
narcotics, the officers explained.
“Drug-seeking dogs are playful. They
learn to smell the drugs, and when they find them, they put the drugs in their
mouths and run to us.
Explosives-seeking dogs have a different
When they find what they’re looking for, they are trained to
sit down next to the explosives,” Gamliel noted.
They are also tasked
with ensuring that areas are safe for senior politicians and visiting diplomats.
The Knesset’s helipad is a frequent area of operation for the
The women describe the process of growing attached to the
“It’s not just work, it’s about taking care of them, grooming
them and showing them love.
This strengthens the bond between us,” said
After eight years, the animals are retired, and the officers are
given the option of adopting them. Sharavi’s former dog, which she adopted from
the Border Police after working with it for several years, died last
“We do this job out of love. We are here wholeheartedly,” Gamliel
On calm days, the officers take sniffer dogs to crowded areas like
markets and festivals to search for explosives. As they walked down Jerusalem’s
bustling Rehov Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall on Wednesday, they quickly became a
tourist attraction, and were accompanied by numerous camera flashes directed at
them. “It happens all the time,” Sharavi said with a hint of
IN THE entire police force, there are just four K- 9
female officers, and three of them serve in the Border Police in
But the women say working within a predominantly male
environment is a nonissue. “We are a family,” Gamliel said. “We’ve been together
for nine years. Men and women are the same here.”
finding explosives during one search when she was five months’
The officers are sometimes called in to accompany IDF or police
units in the West Bank, after receiving intelligence of arms being hidden in a
location. In recent years, they added, they have been dealing with many more
criminal cases and fewer terrorism-related incidents.
include the security fence in east Jerusalem, where illegal workers often
attempt to cross from the West Bank.
Asked how they thought they were
perceived by the Palestinian population, Gamliel said, “When we have to carry
out searches, I make every effort not to offend them and to respect their
religious sensitivities. I will ask those in a vehicle being searched to remove
any religious items from the car, like a Koran, before the search
Sharavi said being a K-9 officer was “a lifelong profession.
None of us wants to retire when we get to retirement age. This is an amazing