The brothers that enable the rocket siren

Maj. Ilan Itah and his brother Lt.-Col. Levi Itah play critical roles in enabling Israel’s alert system.

Itah brothers (photo credit: IDF Spokesman Unit)
Itah brothers
(photo credit: IDF Spokesman Unit)
Lt.-Col. Levi Itah, 42, is the head of alert systems at the IDF Home Front Command. His younger brother, Maj. Ilan Itah, 41, of the IDF’s Teleprocessing Branch, oversees the channel of complex communications that begins with the detection of an incoming threat and ends with a siren going off in an Israeli city.
During the weekdays, the two brothers speak regularly, helping to solve one another’s technical problems.
“When I have an error in my system, I know who to call,” Levi told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. But the work talk doesn’t end there.
“On Friday evenings, we’ll end up talking about the army. Our wives get annoyed,” Ilan added.
“It’s a part of us. Our commitment is total.
We see this as a mission, an expression of our love for the country and the need to significantly contribute to it.”
Both brothers studied computing at school, and enrolled in the Teleprocessing Branch.
Levi went on to serve in the communications field in the army, while Ilan served in a computer unit.
“Today, these two areas are merged into one world. On the way, we met several times in the army. Fate brought us to this point,” Levi said.
His role is made up of two basic components.
“I’m setting up the future alert system, and maintaining the current system,” he explained.
Ilan, who is based at the IDF’s Computer and Information System Center, provides the technical support and maintenance for the links in the computing chain that lead up to the siren.
The current rocket alert system is the most advanced in the world, and became operational in July 2012, the brothers said.
“We built it over two years. This is the result of very impressive cooperation between the Teleprocessing Branch, the Home Front Command, and the Israel Air Force. This system saves lives. It came into action for the first time during Operation Pillar of Defense [in November 2012],” Levi said.
“Beyond saving lives, we’re also enabling national resilience by creating area-specific sirens. This allows civilians who are not threatened to continue with their routine,” he explained.
During the 1991 First Gulf War, whenever an Iraqi Scud missile was fired at Israel, air raid sirens blared across the whole of the country. Now, Israel is divided into more than 100 alert areas, allowing for very specific warnings.
“Every time a rocket or missile is fired, we know where it’s going. Only the relevant people are alerted,” Levi stated.
“Our cooperation is critical for operating the system, from the detection point to the siren,” Ilan added.
The new system also enjoys more detection capabilities than past alert systems.
“We utilize all of the available detection resources to spot things coming out of the sky,” Levi said.
He added that technological upgrades would soon enable Israelis to have a fully automatic alert system that does not require any manual intervention.
“In the future, there will be one, central platform to send alerts and instructions on a variety of threats, not just missiles. This includes hazardous substances, terror attacks and tsunamis,” Levi added.
“Under a three-year plan, we’re setting up a national message center that will utilize TV, radio, the Internet and cellphones to reach civilians wherever they are.”
Several European countries have expressed an interest in the Israeli alert system, the brothers said.
“We’re a country under threat, which is making good progress in this field,” Levi said, to which Ilan added, “This is a form of pioneering.”