Record Demand for Security Guards in Israel as Store Sales Plummet After Terrorist Attacks

Security companies are reporting double the demand from public institutions, schools and private businesses compared to normal times.

Ofer Vaknin

The current wave of terrorist attacks is producing record demand for security guards. Security companies are reporting double the demand from public institutions, schools and private businesses compared to normal times. On the other hand, retailers reported sharp drops in sales on Tuesday after a series of terrorist attacks in the morning in Jerusalem and Ra’anana.

Pini Schiff, head of the Israeli Security Association, which represents security firms around the country, said he does not remember any period in the past decade during which there was such high demand for security personnel, adding that the shortage of security guards is a chronic problem.

Banks around the country had removed guards about a year and a half ago but now, in consultation with the Israel Police, they have identified high-risk branches where guards are again being put in place. The management of the country’s banks have decided that if the wave of terrorism continues, guards will be reinstated at the entrance to all the country’s bank branches.

Large restaurants are also considering reinstating guards, which were fixtures at many establishments a little more than 10 years ago following the wave of terrorism at the time. At locations where guards at the entrances have remained in place over the years, such as shopping malls, hotels, party centers and universities, security is being beefed up.

Many retailers reported that business has been slow over the past week, something which may also have been affected by a seasonal slump in sales that frequently follows the fall Jewish holidays, but Tuesday’s attacks in Jerusalem and Ra’anana brought about further declines.

“At some of our stores sales went down almost to nothing,” said Avi Schumer, one of the owners of the Tzomet Sfarim bookstore chain. “Our sales at Pisgat Ze’ev in Jerusalem went down by about two thirds, as did the store on the Ben-Yehuda pedestrian mall in the city. Sales at the Kfar Sava store went down to almost zero, as they did at the store in Ra’anana, which is right next to where the terrorist attack took place. Sales there were 90% lower than a normal day, and the store was also closed for part of the work day.”

Ra’anana and Kfar Sava are adjacent communities. The stabbing attack near Tzomet Sfarim in Ra’anana was the second of two stabbing incidents committed by terrorists in the city Tuesday.

“Sales at stores in malls were less hurt,” Schumer said, “but at stores on the street, traffic is very light. I have eight stores in Jerusalem and other than the store at the Malha mall, customer traffic was very thin.”

For its part, the management of Ra’anana’s Renanim mall, which said the facility is protected by armed guards, reported a sharp drop in mall sales volumes after the attacks in the city.

In the first stabbing attack in Ra’anana, one of the people who subdued the attacker was a businessman from a nearby store. Some merchants in Ra’anana closed their stores for the day after the attack, however, including Liat Sharon, who owns a housewares store on Ahuza Street near the site of the first attack.

“The attack occurred just as I was opening the store,” said Sharon. “I heard people yelling that there was a terrorist attack and ran to hide. When I got back to the store, I closed it immediately. I’m still not sure if I will open [on Wednesday]. Maybe I will hire a security service.”

When it comes to security guards, Economy Minister Arye Dery has already authorized the stationing of guards at educational institutions beyond 1:30 P.M., but due to the shortage of guards the Israeli Security Association and the Federation of Chambers of Commerce approached Dery and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan on Tuesday asking that the position of security guard be designated “preferred employment.” Such a designation would entitle soldiers who have just finished their military service to a grant of 6,500 shekels (about $1,700) on top of the salaries that they would earn with the security companies. “There is no reason why a demobilized soldier seeking work at a hotel or gas station gets a preferred employment grant while his friend who wants to be a security guard doesn’t,” sources in the security business said.

One knowledgeable source added, however, that demobilized soldiers frequently prefer more “prestigious” security-related jobs, such as working in security at Ben-Gurion International Airport or at an embassy. And another problem, he said, was the generally low wages that security guards earn.