'I Love This Country. If There's a Terror Attack, I'm There to Protect People, No Matter What'

An Israeli border policeman explains why he chose his perilous profession

Liat Elkayam
Liat Elkayam
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Asaf Shriker.
Asaf Shriker.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Liat Elkayam
Liat Elkayam

Asaf Shriker, 23, from Kiryat Gat; flying to New York

Hello, can I ask what you’ll be doing in the United States?

I’m going to see sports events, mostly NBA but also some football and UFC and MMA.

What’s MMA?

Mixed martial arts. Have you heard of Conor McGregor?

Clan McGregor?

No. The current MMA champion, who hit the headlines because he had a wild fight against a professional boxer [Floyd Mayweather Jr.] and got around $500 million for every round. [McGregor says he made $100 million from the bout.]

Who won?

The boxer, because it’s like me being a soccer player and entering a basketball tournament.

So you’re going to see Conor?

No, I’m going to see [Michael] Bisping fight [Georges] St-Pierre.

Who are you betting on?

I don’t have a favorite. But in basketball I’m for the New York Knicks, even though I also like Chicago and Cleveland. I’ll see three NBA games: Knicks vs. Houston Rockets, Brooklyn vs. Cleveland, and Knicks vs. Denver.

How much does a ticket cost?

It depends where you sit and who the team is playing. The most expensive was Knicks vs. Houston. I bought tickets for everything four months ago. ... I’m also going to see a football game between the New York Jets and Atlanta.

How did you get into American sports?

I’ve always liked sports, it runs in the family. Dad likes soccer, so the whole family is for Barcelona, and so on. I watched basketball in Israel and then started watching the NBA, mostly because Omri Casspi played there and David Blatt was coaching. I saw every game Casspi played in. I taped the games and watched them, after work.

Do you play basketball?

No, it doesn’t jibe with my work.

Where do you work?

I’m in the career Border Police.

How many years did you sign up for?

The initial commitment is for five years, and then I can continue – and I want to.

Are you gung-ho?

What people say about the Border Police is a matter of what is going on. Now, with all the recent terrorist attacks, a lot of people know the Border Police. It’s like the Givati Brigade – after the TV series “Basic Training,” everyone wanted to serve there, the brigade had a positive image and demand increased. I like what I do. It might sound like a cliché, but I love this country.

What does that mean for you?

I want to contribute as much as I can, and I’m happy to be part of it. Even in demonstrations, and even if someone curses me, I will protect him. I’m there so he can go on demonstrating. And if there is some terrorist attack, heaven forbid, I’m there to protect people, to do everything to stop the attack, no matter what. To neutralize the danger.

Have you been in a dangerous situation?

Thank God, nothing has happened to me. But you’re always prepared and there are scenarios for extreme situations. For example, Hadas Malka, of blessed memory [a Border Policewoman who was killed in a terrorist attack in June], was a friend of mine.

Sad and scary.

Some people ask me why I signed up. Some say, “You could have looked for work elsewhere.” But I see myself doing it for as long as the body can take it. You feel the body being worn down, but if the head is strong it doesn’t matter.

What wears down in the body?

I have leg pains and lower-back pain when I stand for hours in one place, wearing a protective vest and lots of equipment. But if you have a goal, then you do it – the pain disappears, you don’t feel it and it’s all good.

What about psychological wear and tear?

Look, in the end, a person in this profession really has to make the separation and create a balance. But both my surroundings and family are supportive. After the incident with Hadas Malka, we had team meetings and we talked, and I saw how the unit came together to help each other. We had to take it all in.

Do you grasp that “it” refers to death?

We talk about it. We understand that it’s something that happens, that it’s close to us – and we have to keep going.

Amir Brilliantand Dafna Hemmendinger.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

Amir Brilliant, 45, from Atlit, and Dafna Hemmendinger, 34, from Mevo Beitar; arriving from Corfu, Greece

Did you visit the Corfu caves?

Amir: No, but we swam in the sea and visited the villages and the olive groves, and had a great time.

Dafna: There weren’t many tourists. It was chilly and we got around on a moped.

Amir: I travel a lot in Greece, and every time I’m there I want to live there. I decided to visit Greece back in the time when there were ferries from Haifa. It took two days to Crete and three to Athens – I think they stopped them since the intifada.

Sounds like you did really well on the trip.

Amir: We didn’t even go through baggage check-in, we traveled light.

Dafna: It’s easier to travel together than being alone. Let’s just say we didn’t quarrel over who would drive the moped, and it was really terrific. It’s very simple for us together, if you remove all the complexities of life.

What’s so complex?

Dafna: It seems to me that the older you get, the more complex life becomes.

Amir: For us, there’s also geographical complexity: We’re scattered across the country. I lived in Klil [near Nahariya] for 10 years, and I have a son who lives there. But still, it’s possible, especially if your thinking isn’t stuck and you’re flexible, and there’s no destination you have to get to.

How long have you been together?

Dafna: Two years.

Amir: She was driving through Klil when I lived there and stopped to ask directions. I happened to be out walking, and that’s how we met.

So, you’re talking about a second round of love, and that has to be complex.

Dafna: I don’t feel like I’m in a “second round.” This is my life, this is my way.

Forgive the formulation.

Amir: What’s simple is that there’s friendship between us. And that’s the basis for the whole thing.

Dafna: You have to agree to be part of it, and then things can deepen and develop.

Amir: And then you suddenly go to Corfu. The trip was Dafna’s present for my birthday.

Dafna: I wanted to go there, because I wanted a green place for hiking in the hills. It also has the seashore. And also because [naturalist] Gerald Durrell was there. He spent a few years in Corfu as a boy and wrote his stories there, and Amir also writes.

What do you write?

Amir: Short stories and poems. I’m an architect, a writer and a poet. I’ve just self-published a book.

What do you do, Dafna?

I’m a communications therapist and I also teach contact improvisation [a form of dance]. This year, I’m working in preschools. My field of therapy is very broad, but you can say that when you give someone your attention, things happen.

Amir: Like in Ho’oponopono.

Pono what?

Dafna: It’s a traditional ancient Hawaiian healing method.

Amir: It was brought to the West by a doctor named Ihaleakala Hew Len. He used it on mentally ill patients in a closed ward. After he worked there with the method, they were all released.

What does the method involve?

Dafna: It’s a process of cleansing.

Amir: If there’s something I’d be happy about and aspire to, it’s to be in a clean state.

You don’t feel clean?

Amir: I feel very challenged in this regard. Basically, the method allowed me to replace what is bad in my head. All that’s needed is to say: I love you, I forgive you, I’m sorry, thank you. It’s not something you say to someone who bugs you; it’s an inner declaration.

Then what happens if, say, I make you angry?

Amir: I say it to myself and I’m cleansed. If I’m clean, it will no longer be irritating for me.

Does it work?

Amir: It’s helped me a lot. But still, I think there are people who are really irritating.

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