Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

When High Security Is a Way of Life

JERUSALEM -- Want to take a quick trip to the mall on your lunch hour, reclaim that bag you forgot on the bus, toss out a candy wrapper before hopping on the subway, make a last-minute dash to catch your flight? In plenty of places, you'd have to think again.

Long before airborne suicide attackers dealt the United States a series of staggering blows on Tuesday, people in many other countries had become accustomed to security measures affecting their most mundane activities.

If you live in Jerusalem, it takes so long to park your car at the city's biggest mall that it's just not worth it to shop for only an item or two. To enter the parking garage, you wait in a long line while security guards question each driver and open car trunks to peer inside.

"You just don't do it anymore -- if you don't have to buy groceries or clothing, you don't go," said Moran Cohen, a 23-year-old from the suburbs of Tel Aviv. "If you must, you're always watching -- you're not relaxed."

Other cities that have experienced bouts of urban terror adjust in small, telling ways. London's subway system, the famed Underground, is also known for having no trash cans -- they're just too convenient a hiding place for bombs. Signs offer polite apologies for this practice, a legacy of years of attacks by Irish nationalists, and patrons are asked to hang onto their litter until they emerge.

Once out in the street, you still might have trouble getting rid of that empty soft-drink can. The City of London, the financial district that has been a prime bombing target in the past, has almost no outdoor trash bins, for the same reason.

In the world's attack-prone places, the impulse to help out when someone makes a careless mistake can wind up stifled by security concerns.

A bag or briefcase left in an American bus or taxi would have a decent chance of winding up in the lost and found.

Not so in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, where unclaimed parcels are swiftly checked out by the bomb squad -- and blown up if they appear at all suspicious.

Most Israeli cities have concrete-lined trash receptacles meant to absorb the force of any explosives planted in them.

And public buildings are equipped with a "security pit" -- a reinforced hole into which a suspicious object can be hurled as a last-ditch protective measure.

In Northern Ireland, doing a sloppy job of parking your car might be enough to trigger a bomb alert, despite an easing of tensions after the signing of the province's 1998 peace accord. Unusually parked vehicles can signal a car bombing about to happen, and if police declare an alert, people know to clear out -- fast.

"When you grow up in a place like Belfast, you can feel strange going to other, freer places," said David Hamilton, a building surveyor.

"You're waiting to get searched. When you hear a bang, you presume the worst. It's a different mentality -- one we're trying to leave behind, and one that Americans might be starting to develop."

Are Americans ready to accept the kind of cumbersome, intrusive, time-consuming security measures that are commonplace elsewhere? Some outside observers think they are -- that in fact, they'll overreact.

"The response will be far stronger than to something happening here in Israel," said Boaz Ganor of the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism.

"People will expect guards at every movie theater, every school. They'll be afraid to leave their homes."

Even before Tuesday's attacks, the threat of airborne terror strikes was taken seriously in international circles. Prior to July's Group of Seven summit in Genoa, Italy, the government installed a missile-defense system to protect world leaders attending the gathering.

The commandeering of commercial airliners as fuel-laden bombs in Tuesday's attacks puts aviation security under intense new scrutiny. Israel, for one, is confident of its prowess in the field. Hours after the strikes, it swiftly closed its airspace to all but its own carrier, El Al, considered the world's most tightly guarded airline. Other flights resumed a day later.

Other airlines need to remember that knives used for meals -- even plastic ones -- can be deadly weapons, said defense ministry spokesman Shlomo Dror, who once worked for El Al onboard security. "I could cut your throat easily with a credit card," he said.

Many of the world's trouble spots are in it for the long haul when it comes to tight security. In Sri Lanka, where the government has fought an 18-year civil war against separatist Tamils it considers terrorists, roads are dotted with checkpoints, and body searches at the entrance to shops and offices are common.

"It's an inconvenience, and sometimes a harassment," said P. Varatharajan, an accountant. "And it doesn't make you feel very safe."