Israel is big on security. Think about it and you’ll totally get why. It’s something that is nearly impossible to miss on a daily basis. They’re also fairly notorious for their rather difficult border crossings, particularly if you have one of many potential “suspect” stamps, primarily from any Arab country. After 6 weeks in the region, I’d started adapting to these stringent procedures. I mean, surely I’d seen everything right? Wrong.
I’d been warned that flying out of Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV) can be a rather difficult process. Matt from LandLopers wrote about his experience being escorted to the gate there last year. So knowing this, I arrived at the airport a full 3.25 hours before my flight was due to depart. Little did I know, it would take me 2 hours just to clear the various levels of security and get stamped out of the country…
An Advance Warning
“They might ask you some questions,” our taxi driver warned us as we approached a gate on the highway. “For security reasons,” he added. The first wave was upon us, though this person simply chatted with the taxi driver in Hebrew and waved us on.
The real experience started in the terminal itself, where you are directed to one of four check-in areas based on the airline you’re flying. From there, you immediately get in a line, which is where the real fun begins! First…
Little did I know that a few questions could have such a huge effect on my day… But I was ready for whatever the friendly, nice, young gentlemen could throw at me.
“Where are you going,” he asked?
“New York via Kiev,” I replied.
“Do you have any family in Israel?”
“Not as far as I know…”
“Did anyone give you anything to bring back with you,” he inquired?
“So your bag hasn’t left your sight?
“Who packed your bag?”
“Is this your first time in Israel?
“Sort of, I went in and out 3 times to visit Egypt and Jordan.”
“Egypt? Is that safe right now?”
“Yes. I went to Cairo and you’d never know anything was happening outside of Tahrir Square.”
“Hmmm. What brought you to Israel?”
“I came with a Birthright trip.”
“Oh really? Where’s the rest of your group?”
“They left December 18. I extended.”
“Did you come with a community?”
“Are you particularly religious?”
“High holidays or something?”
“No pretty secular.”
“Like most of Israel then,” he chuckled.
It was all very friendly and cordial. Then he starts questioning me about the validity of my claim…
“How does one get on a Birthright trip?”
“You need to be Jewish between the ages of 18 and 26.”
“Is it just for people who’ve never visited Israel before?”
“No, but you have to have not come to Israel on an educational trip before.”
“Are you sure?”
“Do you speak any other languages?
“What about any Hebrew?”
“None at all?”
“I picked up a few words on the trip but that’s all.”
“Sorry to ask again, but who packed your bags?”
And finally, a question I’d hear so many, many times from nearly everyone I’d encounter: “What time is your flight?”
He kept apologizing for asking such “personal questions.” But finally, a barcode was stuck onto my passport and my bag. Little did I know this little number would have such a large effect on my fate.
From there, we had to put our bags through a heavy duty scanner, which seemed rather silly since the very next station was a thorough searching of your checked luggage by hand.
Nearly every pocket was opened on my backpack and nearly every object swabbed for explosives. Now, I’m very organized when I pack and my fantastic 32 liter backpack (which, incidentally, weighs a mere 8.5kg), is full of lots of pockets for storing stuff. While this is great for organization, it’s not good for getting through this process, or repacking my entire bag in a hurry…
“I’m really sorry about all the mess,” the nice young lady who’d gone through my stuff told me, as she waited to escort me to the check-in desk. There I was instructed to bring my backpack to the “special elevator,” to which I was escorted. “Would I ever see my bag again,” I wondered?
From there it was onto security, where they could’ve cared less about seeing my boarding pass or ID. All they were interested in was my barcode, a quick scan of which dictates which security line I go to.
“Line 2,” I was told; a special line that can only be entered by permission. Clearly, I’d told the guy something I shouldn’t have. “What do you have to do to end up in this line,” I jokingly asked the guy in front of me. “Oh be a criminal or something,” he joked back. At least that’s how we felt.
Line 2 should be remembered by the fact that it did not move. At all. I spent roughly 45 minutes in this short line that only kept getting longer behind me. I noticed from the guy who had taken over directing people that one quick glance at the number on the barcode meant he could direct you appropriately.
By the time I finally hit the checkpoint, I knew it would be a thorough check. All electronics had to be removed from the bag, including chargers. Interestingly enough, you did not have to remove your shoes and they lacked those full body scanners that have been taking over at U.S. airports.
On the other side of the metal detector were a few chairs, a somber sign of the lengthy process ahead, where your carry-on baggage was thoroughly searched with the same attention to detail as your checked luggage. Everything was unpacked and swabbed. But much to my surprise, after this process I was waved on, unlike the poor sap who had 3 people going through his luggage in even greater detail!
From there it was onto immigration, one of the most ridiculously easy checkpoints I’d been through, even when leaving Israel by land previously. “What’s your family name,” was the one and only question and before I knew it, I was stamped out and on my way!
I would come to learn from my seatmate that the first digit of your barcode denotes the “threat” level you are perceived at from your interview. 1 meant no threat at all. I was a 5. Apparently 6 means you’re super duper suspicious…
And from the sounds of things, I could have had it much worse. After all, there are numerous reports of people being escorted to the gate and being allowed to board only with their wallets and passports! Perhaps I should consider myself lucky?
Oh, and for the record, my bag did end up back at JFK with me!
What About You?
Have you flown out of Ben Gurion or experienced tough security measures before? What was your experience like?
269 replies on “Leaving Tel Aviv: My Experience Through Airport Security at Ben Gurion”
I love the way you told this story; I felt like I was right there with you! It really brought back memories of when I was labeled a ‘6’ in that airport and frisked in a little booth off to the side. It was so thorough that it almost felt like a massage!
The reason I was considered high risk, according to another traveler, is that security saw me, a solo female traveler, as someone who might have a Palestinian boyfriend (who may have packed my bag.) Also, they didn’t like where I’d been: Jordan and Syria.
Anyway, I think you are pretty lucky. It could have gone worse, believe me! 🙂
Hahaha “almost felt like a massage.” Love it! I’ve been patted down by the TSA before and it certainly didn’t bring a massage to mind! Maybe they can learn a thing or too from the folks in Israel.
I’m not surprised you were labeled a 6 having been to Syria. My American friend that I visisted in Iraq said he spent nearly 10 hours at the border trying to enter Israel, where I had originally met him! He had flown in and out of Amman, so he didn’t have to deal with the security at Ben Gurion!
My friend and his brother have recently arrived in Israel, my mate told me that he got a blue alert at customs and had asked me if I could look up what it meant
Any idea? He has been traveling through Europe recently and he is from Australia so I’m not sure if that had any bearing in it. Will he have a difficult time coming home, do you think?
I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a “blue alert” before. If it’s at customs, then logic would dictate it would probably have something to do with an item your friend was bringing IN to Israel. Is he traveling with any questionable items in his luggage? If so, then yes, he may have a problem. If not, I don’t think he has anything to worry about.
I read your very accurate account of the security at Ben Gurion Airport – living in Israel for over 30 years and flying back to USA once/year.
I just don’t think that their security measures should be documented to a worldwide audience.
The less said, the more protected I feel.
What do you think?
It’s not like any of this information is secret. Before I even traveled to Israel I had heard about their security measures, including the interview. I’m not sure how sharing what my experience was allows anyone to “game” the system. If the interview process looks for psychological clues, which I presume it does, reading about what to expect really isn’t going to change any of that.
haha, I made it 3 times to Israel, once from Ben Gurion Airport and twice from the land border crossings from Jordan. 2 times leaving Israel on land, once at the airport. I was always labeled as 5 🙂 So I enjoyed the same story as you. I´m gonna visit Isreael and Jordan again in September via Ben Gurion that means 2 incoming and 2 outcoming entries. I hope to stay at level 5 and not to move to level 6 😀 The reason why Im so suspicious is that my father is jordanian even though I was born in Czech Republic, my mother is Czech and I have had never other citizienship but Czech. But anyway I kind of understand their focus on security things 🙂
Did they ever ask about your father’s heritage? Or is it fairly apparent that you have some Jordanian ancestry? You could always try flying in and out of Amman and the crossing into Israel… 😛
But yes, I too understand WHY they focus so much on security. It’s always a very fine line though between reasonable and unreasonable.
I have arabic name, czech passport and I don’t speak Arabic. That’s very suspicious for them. So they started to investigate me deeply when I told them that i have Jordanian roots – about my father and his family in Jordan if there is some connection to Palestine..
I see. You’d think at some point in one of your many trips to Israel you’d ended up on some sort of “cleared” list, but I guess not…
Omar. you’re right. Those suspicions are indeed very much based on reality – it’s not crazy paranoia. Google “Hindawi affair” and “Mike’s Place suicide bombing”.
By the way, when I was traveling alone in Frankfurt airport, I was “picked up” as I was looking for my flight at the board whilst already in the terminal (past the security checks). A huge German guard came up to me, took me behind a screen in the corridor before even seeing my passport, where I was greeted by three people. They opened my bag and sent me to a full body scan. And no, this bunch was not pleasant at all. So it happens also elsewhere and to European looking people too…
I left the Garden Hostel (Yona Honavi street) I think it was called, in ’94, a month or two after Rabin was shot. I’d spent a year in Tel Aviv on a 3-month visa, working on building sites and in bars etc, basically just getting drunk every night in Mulligans Bar and smoking weed at the Gordon Hostel with other backpackers.
The night before I left we had a party in the hostel and everyone was taking acid tabs so I bit off half of one and then carried on drinking all night. I went straight to Ben Gurion next morning, getting there an hour before my plane took off. I noticed they were searching everyone so I checked my shorts pockets I was still wearing from last night and I found the other half of acid. So I swallowed it.
Two hours later it was my turn to be interrogated about this that and the other and about why did my rucksack have someone else’s name and address on it. (I’d swapped my bag with a female friend a month earlier and forgot to take her name off her one)
Then the acid started kicking in and I spent the rest of the questioning process giggling and laughing like an idiot. To this day I don’t know how they let me on the El-Al flight back to London. I can’t remember much about the interview and II can’t even remember getting on the plane, which by then I thought was a spaceship about to launch.
For the whole five hour flight home I was tripping off my tits, which I thought was a great way to end my year of tripping off my tits in Tel Aviv.
That is quite a story!
I got frisked pretty thoroughly. (My female security agent got so personal with my downtown bits I felt like I should have slipped a shekel into her top.)
Of course, I had also been on a Birthright trip and did extend and went to Jordan and Egypt just as you did. I also went out and got drunk my last night in Tel Aviv… before a 5am flight. Protip: however hard getting out of Ben Gurion is sober, it’s more fun drunk.
Hahaha I don’t doubt that it’s more fun drunk though perhaps that may have contributed to why you were frisked and I wasn’t! 😛
Love your payment comment- how funny. Thanks for the advice with getting drunk. Will do. Airport security was much tougher leaving NY to TLV for me surprisingly. They kept in the backroom, scuffled through my things and undressed me as well. It was the most action I got on the trip for sure.
After initiial questions (did u pack yourself, why israel etc) I got put in the fast lane, they didn’t scan (let alone search) my checked luggage or backpack and i went straight to bagdrop (i was 3kg overweight but they didn’t say anything). it was terminal one – quite a long walk to passports but straight through and onto shuttle bus to main terminal to catch flight back to london 🙂 going back in a few weeks 😀
Haha lucky you! Glad to hear some folks have it easy! I’m guessing you hadn’t been to any Arab countries?
I take it you’ve never been to england? :p
Blurgh – I’ve never exited Israel through Ben Gurion but this makes me a bit nervous! I’ve heard of people being paranoid about leaving the country and having their photos searched, etc. This past time for me visiting was the easiest entry into Israel I’ve ever had, so I’m hoping the exit will be equally easy.
I entered Israel 3 times and only once had a problem while crossing from Jordan into the West Bank (my daypack and passport were taken to a separate room for further screening without me). Still, immigration was a breeze. The guy at the hostel in Tel Aviv had advised me I may have some issues at the airport if I’d visited the West Bank but that never even came up. Apparently Egypt was enough to set off a red flag for the guy interviewing me.
Oh wow! I’ve been interrogated by immigration officers abroad and once at a Canadian/US land crossing but never searched. I applaud you for keeping it together, not becoming obviously frustrated or mouthing off – don’t know if I could have remained cool and collected. Kudos!
Hell, even I’VE been interrogated (of sorts) entering the U.S. and I’m American! I have a Thai student visa that has this “X’d” perforation to it that’s staritng to peel up. The immigration folks thought I’d tried to cut up the visa… Surprisingly though, U.S. immigration could’ve cared less that I’d been to Iraq!
I had two Syria stamps in my passport, one Lebanon, two Jordan, two Egypt and one Sudan. Needless to say, I got three different private interviews. Two in the security line, then one in private. And they took all my hard drives and wanted to look at the stuff on them. As I recall, it took about 4 hours or so —
Yikes! I’ve heard tell tale of them forcing people to log into their email too so they can read what’s in there. I hope you still made your flight on time!
Wow, intense! I get pulled aside for special screening for EVERY trip. My boyfriend jokes that I have been flagged since I travel too often and lived in Argentina. I am all too familiar with the bag searches, pat downs, and bomb swabbing. I think the worst I ever had was in Argentina. They became crazy suspicious of me because my last name is the same as the president’s. They took everything out of my bags, made me repack it. I was patted down several times. I was even with a study abroad group and they just made them wait while I was searched.
Yikes! That does not sound like fun! You’d think that maybe they’d go easy on you in Argentina for having the same name as the president! Maybe you could pass yourself off as a distant relative or something?
That’s a heck of a story, and you told it so! Trust me, as someone who travels with an Indian passport, I get interrogated ALL the time (especially in Jordan). Looks like I will have to budget 5 hours to get through Israel security….
Yikes! I can’t imagine it’s fun to travel with a passport from India…
I thought Israel would be kind to a Hindu nation like India. Are they not close allies/friends?
I believe she was referring to other countries giving her a hard time over her Indian passport, having not been to Israel yet (at least at the time).
All a bit worrisome – I am planning on visiting Jordan in a few weeks and want to visit Jerusalem on the same trip. I have an Iranian visa in my passport (Canadian) and my travel partner (also on a Canadian passport) is Pakistani. Do you think the border crossing from Jordan to Israel will be ok (KH bridge) or would flying be better? Getting out might be an issue too.
I think you’ll have issues regardless of which entrance you use. The friend I ended up visiting in Iraq told me it took him 8 hours to cross into Israel via the KH bridge just because he had an Iraqi visa in his passport… I’ve also heard many a tale of people of Middle Eastern origin having a real hard time at border crossings. Chances are your friend will be admitted, but be prepared for a very long, and perhaps intrusive, ordeal…
If you do end up going, be wary of passport stamps, as a number of Muslim countries refuse entry to those who have evidence of visiting Israel. By crossing at the KH bridge, Jordan won’t stamp you and you could ask that Israel doesn’t either, which they’ll probably oblidge (no guarantees though).
I got a threat level 5 and got the same invasive searching and security personnel hand-holding through Ben Gurion. This was the first time I’d been to Israel and I’d just been for taglit with a few extra days in Tel Aviv. On the way there, from Heathrow, after the El Al people gave me a grilling (pro-tip: go easyjet) I got some kind of amber or red tag/sticker (I forget the details) and had to report early to the gate to be specially searched. Has anybody had this experience or know anything more?
I’ve heard that young men traveling alone are considered “suspicious” for some odd reason, no matter if you came over for Taglit. I’m assuming you have a British passport? Do you have any stamps that might have raised eyebrows?
It was the first time I visited Israel and the reason was a business meeting. I merely stayed 48 h there and, thus, had only hand-luggage with me. When leaving the country through Ben Gurion Airport I went straight to the second (hand luggage) security control with my previously printed online boarding card.
Being a mid-fourty solo traveller I obviously raised some concerns to the officer even though I have never visited any arabic country in my whole life. Perhaps the most important issue was that I could not present an official invitation letter for the meeting. It was actually a bit innocent from my side to not bring something along with me. Moreover, I could also feel some doubts regarding my statement not to have any check-in luggage, which as a consequence led me to skip the first (and probably harder) security check.
So although being well dressed and having my PhD title indicated in my passport I ended up with the much desired threat 5 level. However, I was lucky because I was the only “client” of the high security hand luggage control at that time. Normal procedures here including wipe tests, very detailed hand inspection of all my personal belongings, etc., but no more questions. All in all: 8-10 min. The Border Control and the final passport check took another 5 min and then I was through.
From entering the taxi at my hotel in central Tel Aviv to standing right in front of my departure gate, it took me only about 75 min (I just mention this for the Guinness Book of World Records 😉 Nevertheless, please don’t take it as the normally required time for hand-luggage travellers, as the entire terminal was very empty when I went through security.
I understand the special situation of Israel and the need for effective security measures at sensitive locations such as airports. Moreover, I honestly appreciate their effort to increase passenger security, because at the end of the day I am a passenger and it is also my security which ameliorates by such measures. In my personal case I always felt that the security personal treated me in a neutral way and with the necessary respect. However, I doubt that the profiling process in the current form is very efficient, as you see a lot of reports from obviously not dangerous travellers who passed a bad time at Ben Gurion Airport sometimes almost missing their flight. I wish you all good luck at the security controls!
Thanks for sharing your experience! I’ve heard that males traveling alone often raise suspicions at Ben Gurion and I’m sure the minimal luggage didn’t really help your situation. And luckuy you that the terminal was nearly empty! I was there at like 5:30 in the morning and there were tons of people, hence my long waits.
I too understand the circumstances that Israel deals with, especially with some of the history they’ve faced and I certainly felt safer having gone through security at Ben Gurion than I do going through security in the U.S. But in a way it really is profiling. Can you imagine what it would be like for someone of Middle Eastern descent? Or with a Lebanese stamp in their passport?
My experience were even worse.
Me, a german tourist, a blonde female, 24 years then, went to Israel for holidays. I was there for like ten days, slept in hotels and hostels and admired the country.
At the airport on my flight back they questioned me a thousand times (“What were you doing?” “Holidays” “What for?” “To see the old Jerulasem, to lay on the beach?!” etc.) then I had to open my whole luggage. in there: A Bikini, sun-cream, dresses… NOTHING suspicious. Addition: Only stamps in my passport are from USA.
Nevertheless, they took all my things (including wallet, phone, passport) and I had to got to a room on the side, taking off all the clothes I wore (except underpanties). Than they felt on the side of my underpanties if there would be hidden sth, they searched in my hair (!) for sth. I don`t even know what they thought, I could possibly carry with me!
Then they went away for 20 Minutes with my clothes, while I was sitting barefoot and naked, arms crossed to cover my breasts in a sterile room on a plastic chair.
it was then when i realised that i was completely at the mercy of them. no passport, no clothes, no rights.
finally they decided that I was – after all – a harmless tourist and escorted me right to my seat in the plane with three (!) armed soldiers.
the whole plane was looking at me like I was a dangerous criminal.
never been that humiliated.
WOW…that is QUITE a story! I can imagine it was a humiliating experience (and you make me feel very lucky for what I went through, though now that I have even more stamps from Arab countries, I don’t think I’d have an easy time were I to visit again on this passport). How awful to have to sit in a cold sterile room without any of your belongings and clothes! I bet you felt totally helpless and vulnerable.
While I do support the fact that every country has the right to secure their airports the way they see fit, I do think that Israel does go a bit far in their security process. Your story says it all! Thanks for sharing.
Maria received the special treatment for Germans. You don’t hear or read about it very often because it is basically what you can expect as a German if you visit – Israel. The country which was founded by people who fled from – Germans.
They just want to remind you of this. That’s all.
Thanks for your insight Thomas. I understand the mentality but I can’t say I agree with the tactics.
Actually, I visited as a German holiday maker and I *only* got pretty much exactly the same treatment as Aaron, with only Ruassian and US stamps in my passport and no birthright trip.
And thanks for sharing your experience…it was so nice to realise I wasn’t the only one having so much fun at Tel Aviv airport!
Hehe…only… Fun times! Curious as to what sparked your treatment (aside from, perhaps, your nationality).
It’s not true.
I’m working at the security and being German has nothing to do with it.
That I said just wrong. I am German and went to Israel this year. Everyone was nice. I got a 2 as first number on the yellow sticker. After getting the sticker it was the same procedure as Institut any European airport.
This is an interesting story…. but Every Country has right to take all those measures that make security risks and threats…
All the Tourist should RESPECT the immigration rules and regulations of that country they are visiting…
Yes, every country has a right to do as they see fit. I’m totally with you there. That said, we tourists also have a right to share our experiences, thoughts, praises and complaints.
Thomas, Germans don’t get mistreated in Israel, certainly not at the airport. I’m guessing Maria was in a specific high risk profile and either answered questions in a suspicious manner (without realising it), or conducted herself in a manner that raised suspicion. There are lots of young European left wing activists who come here to support the Palestinians. That’s their right, of course, but some there’s always a chance that they either radicalize themselves, or that they will be used by terrorists. There’s a very famous story from the 80s about a pregnant Irish woman that was sent on board with a bomb by the Palestinian father of her child. She wasn’t even aware what he had planned for her and the rest of the passengers. Luckily, El Al security managed to foil the attack.
I will be traveling to Israel in November for 7 days. I will be traveling solo and I am 35 years old. Have a brand new US passport with no stamps in it. My country of origin is Georgia from the former USSR. Not planning on visiting West Bank of Gaza. I have few questions.
1) I will be traveling with one carry on luggage and one small backpack which I used for laptop. Usually they allow you to carry one carry on item and one personal bag/case while traveling. Will this be an issue when leaving Israel? I don’t like checking luggage in and was wandering since I will have 2 items to carry on the plane, would that cause issues?
2)What do they do with your phones? I have an expensive smartphone and would not appreciated them taking it away to check it in… do they allow you to carry smartphones with you on the plane?
3)Based on the above info, is there a high chance they will mark me as 5 or even 6? THis is my first time visiting the country. Also I am Christian and if they ask about my religion, do they discriminate against Christians?
and the final one
4) What if you miss the plane?? Do they get you on another one next day, or they dont care and you have to purchase another ticket?
thanks for any tips…
Cabin baggage restrictions usually fall under the discretion of the airline itself, not the airport. While I only had 1 piece of carryon luggage, I can’t imagine having a carryon bag and a personal item, as is the norm in the States, would be problematic.
My phone was never taken from me, but it was swabbed for explosives, as was the charger and all the rest of my electronics and their respective charges. That said, if you’re considered highly suspicious they could theoretically make you check your phone, but given your circumstances I doubt this would happen. Then again, who knows?
I have no clue what you’d be marked as. Just be yourself when they interview you and see what comes of it.
I’ve not heard of anyone ever missing their flight. And if there’s one question that they asked me more than any other it’s “What time is your flight?”
Hi I’m Filipino traveling to tel aviv from Bangkok, I’ve been to Israel ones , the second time was yesterday March 13 I was not able to take the flight for security reason, also I am marked 5, I was search and put in a room , felt bad about the security check …been to Dubai also , I was offloaded by security of el al airlines,but they gave me another air ticket via Turkish airline and free hotel.
El Al is notable for the private security they employ for their flights to Israel. At least you got another flight and a free hotel room! You’re the first story I’ve heard about someone being denied flying to Israel via El Al, though!
Thanks for your reply. I am flying back at midnight non-stop to Philly on US Air, so hoping at that time there won’t be too many people. I am still a bit confused about the sequence of the security check; If I do not intend to check in anything, do I simply print the boarding pass and head over to security check, or i need to stand in line where someone MUST come up to me and ask questions BEFORE i even head to security.
And suppose they label me as 5, do they take me to another place where the question my further and is it at this point where they might require me to open laptop and log into my mail?
My concern is having gone through security and then having to return back to the counter to check in the lugggage because of the phone or laptop…
Or once they let you go through security/metal detectors, most likely they won’t make you check in the baggage….
I am thinking that checking baggage always happens BEFORE you even get to security so I was just trying to visualize this whole sequence.
Oh, and it looks like I will DEFINITELY be “interviewed” based on what I have read above and me being a single male….. fun times 🙂
EVERYONE gets interviewed. It’s impossible to skip this step. So don’t worry.
I was a 5. They never took me anywhere for questioning or asked me to open my laptop of phone so I wouldn’t sweat it if I were you. Biggest thing is be yourself and don’t be nervous. If you come across as nervous, then they’ll suspect you of something.
The sequence is:
Step 1. Checkpoint on the road to the airport where they ask your driver some questions and peek in the car (I passed by at 4am and they didn’t ask us anything)
Step 2. Baggage screening when walking in the airport and perhaps metal detector too. Just a standard x-ray machine for the bags. This is common in many countries.
Step 4. Line for interviews, which, when I was there, doubled as a line for the checked baggage screening by hand (though I’ve heard this is now done behind the scenes like all other airports). It’s not possible to skip this step.
Step 5. Check in. If you checked-in online and don’t have bags to check you could probably proceed to security, but you’ll already have the barcode from your interview.
Step 6. Security, like at every other airport. But they tell you which line based on your barcode.
Step 7. Immigration.
I am due to travel to Israel (Ben Gurion Airport) this Thursday from Manchester UK
I am of Pakistani origin but British Born, After reading the above I am gonna be interviewed without a shadow of a doubt.
I am married to a Moroccan citizen and have probably 6-7 Moroccan stamps after regular visits, 3 Saudi Arabian stamps (Religious pilgrimage), 1 Jordanian, 2 Turkish & 1 Pakistani (NOT LOOKING GOOD)
I crossed the KH Bridge last year in January and they kept us in the terminal for over 8 hours but only interviewed me twice for about half an hour and then let us in.
I have a beard which isn’t a big deal and i’m travelling with my cousin who is of mixed Turkish-Pakistani ethnicity.
I understand everyone is having difficulties leaving the country but how was your experience flying in.
Based on the stories above I’m sure to have a nice lengthy interview.
How did it go?
I found flying in to be quite easy, but I came with a group. If you got held up at the KH Bridge then you’d almost definitely encounter issues at the airport. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Israel ever actually denying anyone entry, just giving them a HUGE run around at the border…
I’d like to add a few words to this very step-by-step experience that you had..
Israel is a country that surrounded by “enemies” calling to destroy her day in and day out … I think that all those checks aren’t that bad cause at the end of the day most likely that many people will pass like you even if its 5/6 or whatever barcode you got and most likely you will get home the safest way possible cause in my opinion the security there is outstanding and unlikely you’ll ever get blown up in the air .. with today’s technologies you can probaby swipe bombs inside cellphones or anything on your mind and they probably afraid of that. I went with my family and we didn’t pass anything like you said just few questions and on our way. I suppose that other airports around the world isn’t like that and most likely that someone with israeli passport will pass the same if not worse than what you’ve passed. anyways it’s not sound that bad and you sure had your experience. It wouldn’t stop me from come there again in few years. Cheers 🙂
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Yes, of course Israel has a unique security situation. But having been through hundreds of airport security checkpoints the world over, I do think that the tactics that Israel uses, while effective, go a bit too far. It’s well reported that if you have visited any number of Muslim countries you will face a harsher screening and now that I’ve been to Iraq, I’m sure I’d face a much worse experience next time. Never mind that the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan actually support Israel…
Hi ! I am a British citezen but originally from Iraq. I am travelling to Israel in June on my British passport with my boyfriend who’s White English. I’m a 38 year old man.
I must admit I am worried that I might face difficulties in Ben Gurion airport or even be refused entry 🙁 especially that I might go to Iraq in April or May , only to Erbil which is in the Kurdistan area, for my brother’s engagement party.
Just thought I’d share my concern and hear your thoughts particularly that now you’ve been to Iraq, how was the experience at the airport in Israel?
Thx 🙂 X
Hey sorry for the slow reply! I actually visited Iraq AFTER I visited Israel, so I can’t speak on my experience there. However, the whole reason I went to Iraq in the first place is because I befriended an American who was teaching English in Erbil while we were traveling together on a bus in Israel. In order to get from Erbil to Jerusalem, he had to fly to Amman and enter Israel via the West Bank and he reported that he spent 8 hours at immigration upon entering the country, thanks to his Iraqi Residency visa! So, you may have some issues entering the country, but I highly doubt that you’ll be refused entry. It just might take a little while for you to get in.
I should add that the Kurds actually support Israel (which is how I was able to visit Iraq with Israeli stamps in my passport). I’m not sure if the feeling is mutual, but an Iraqi Kurdistan immigration stamp is distinctly different than and Iraqi immigration stamp. That might work in your favor, provided you don’t have an Iraqi Visa or something in your passport (reflecting Iraq as a whole, as opposed to Kurdistan alone).
Incidentally, I really loved my time in Iraqi Kurdistan. Quite literally, the people there were the warmest and friendliest people I’ve ever met anywhere in the world!
Hi, my experience in 2009 was exactly the same! I am from the Netherlands, travelling independently, purely because I am fascinated by the region’s history, without any political opinion. But apparently, the mere fact of travelling alone appears to be suspicious. Anyway, they remained polite, and I made my flight, so although I was rattled a bit, it was not too bad…. Planning on going again next year….
I’ve heard from numerous people that people traveling alone, especially men, raise particular flag. I knew going into the security process that it would be intense, but I didn’t know just how intense it would be. And while I do respect their right to conduct security the way they see fit, it sure does make the US’s TSA look a wee bit ridiculous!
[…] of the yellow barcode stamp that they stuck to the back of my passport, but according to this story http://www.aaronswwadventures.com/2013/01/leaving-tel-aviv-israel-airport-security-ben-gurion/, if the number begins with “1,” you are no threat. If it begins with “6,” […]
Fucking airport security . Many questions.them scream at me. I cryied. I flight not for first time. I flight 4 or many time. But last time, was terrible . He take my baggage on security ,they say that my baggage come to bucharest with the next flyght,and I wait today is 5 th day , and them don’t find it. How it’s possible.? I stay without documents what was there and without all things that cost 800$.
Yikes! That’s not a good experience! Where is your passport from? Though Lost Luggage is not an unusual thing, it’s happened to the best of us! Many travel insurance policies cover lost luggage reimbursement, which would have helped you under this scenario.
I just went home from Israel yesterday after a business trip, where I didn’t recieve a security letter from the company we visited. Neither did my colleage, but oddly enough he got the ‘2’ and I got a ‘5’. Took me 3 hours to get through. My story is pretty similar to your own, but with one additional detail. At the first counter (which took 1 hour to get to, and another 30 minutes of questioning) they took my ipad, demanded my code and ran off with it. “We take it to another room for scanning”.
When I got it back 10 minutes later I could see that it had been unlocked, and a few megabytes used on data traffic (at insane datarates I may add). I didn’t say anything ofcause, I felt rather overwhelmed by theese officers and didnt want to say or do anything to bring attention to myself.
Now I got my ipad on my table to stare at suspiciously every time I pass it – wondering if they installed a neat little rootkit or something else funny on it. Already considering selling it and getting another one. 🙂
I guess we should be greatful for the security since it’s all for ours and their protection (god knows it’s needed in that region) but for someone from scandinavia, used to laid back and casual security checks of the european airports, this is quite an experience.
You know, I crossed the land border between Jordan and the West Bank and they took my daypack (with my laptop) and passport away to a back room for like 40 minutes for “additional screening. Never occurred to me that they may have installed some sort of tracking thing on it, though they didn’t ask for my password. Good thing I don’t have that computer anymore!
Thankfully, at the airport, nobody demanded the password to my computer or phone! I see that as a gross invasion of privacy.
And sheesh! What a story! Do you have any idea what got you a “5?” Have you been to any other Middle Eastern countries countries?
I’ve never been to any other middle eastern contry, or any other country that may be at odds with Israel. In hindsight I would have done a few things differently tho…
I was wearing my comfortable travelling clothes (T-shirt, baggy jeans, sneakers), didn’t shave that morning and used a backpack instead of a briefcase for carry-on baggage. On top of that, when I’m wearing T-shirt, 2 of my tattoo’s are visible.
There was plenty of time considering what gave me that ‘5’ at the different lines, and I admit I *did* stand out visually from most of the other travellers. People with piercings, using ordinary backpacks and/or lazy clothes was over-represented in the extra screening lines.
Next time I will do a few things differently. 🙂
Interesting that your relaxed clothing may have set it off. Thanks for sharing!
exactly what happened to maria from germany happened to me. rude people, humiliating experience. i a am 29-year-old american male–they still have my camera, which i suspect was stolen from me–no help from the airport authorities or El Al airline.
i’ve been to some of the worst hellholes on earth and i’ve never been treated like such a criminal.
i’ll never go back to that shithole of a country again. i don’t care what level of existential threats you THINK you are facing, you don’t treat people like animals. you’d think the people of israel, if anyone, could get through their fucking heads.
Yikes! Thanks for sharing your story, though.
Sorry to hear that Nathan
My experience wasn’t airport security, but customs problems trying to enter Turkmenistan a few years ago.
My traveling buddies and I, were doing a grand road trip from London through to Mongolia.
We arrived via a ferry across the Caspian sea, with our little Fiat Panda car, only to realise at customs we didn’t have enough dollars to pay our way into the country.
We had enough money to get 2 of the 4 of us through, along with the car. The nearest place that would take Visa in order to obtain more money was Ashgabat, about 500km away. In short, me and a mate had to complete a 1000km round trip to the nearest international bank so that our friends could escape the border.
We were lucky that a full tank of petrol was only 50 cents, because it is subsidized by the state. Quite an adventure.
I have only just stumbled across your blog, I have been having a read and it really makes me want to travel again. Not sure if my wife would enjoy the real adventures stuff however…
Man oh man that must have been frustrating! Entrance, exit and visa fees are a commonplace around the world. Heck there are even “reciprocity fees” in some countries. It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and adequately prepare for the situation. I flew to Indonesia this summer and planned to get a visa on arrival, which required a certain amount in U.S. currency. I was glad I came prepared, as the woman in front of me was sent to the ATM!
That’s quite a story to tell though!
I’ve always been dreaming of returning some day to Tel Aviv as I miss the city so much – then I run into your post haha. Still, I have plans of visiting TLV again – whatever it takes. I just pray that I don’t get to experience the “horrifying tales” told here.
Hehe. Well you could always fly out of Amman… And it seems like the vast majority of people have ok experiences. Just not the ones who search for horror stories on the internet. 😛
Our group of four friends all with US passport had a security level 6 yesterday. We got to the airport only 1.5 hrs before the flight. They skipped checking our check in luggage and let us check in and then go to security line. Our experience was same as you Aaron expect few of us also went through a body scanner after the initial metal detector. We are all of different origins. I was born in India and one of my other friend was born in Pakistan and is a Muslim. The girls were Vietnamese and Brazilian. We also did the border crossing to Jordan through Eliat to see Petra. Since I travel to lot of countries I use 2 separate US passports. My other passport had stamps to Muslim countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, UAE etc. They did find that passport during the search where they took the bag to the side but did not say or ask me anything about it. But we kind of expected this because of our Muslim friend. During every crossing he had to wait while they did extra checks on him and ask him more questions. On our way into Israel we had to wait 3 hrs while they interviewed him 3 times and checked to see his passport was real or not. I guess he’s not coming back to Israel again.
6? Wowza! Did they make you check everything except your wallet and passport?
I’ve heard that since I had my experience they’ve moved the checked luggage inspection to something that happens behind the scenes, which is probably why they didn’t do that for you. I’m sure they still do that whole process, you just don’t see it.
Funny, I had Malaysia stamps in my passport too and didn’t have a problem. Entering Israel from Egypt was pretty easy. Jordan, not so much. But that was nothing compared to my experience flying out of TLV. I’m not surprised though that you had issues while traveling with a Muslim friend. While I was in Israel I met a fellow traveler (and American) who was teaching in Iraqi Kurdistan. He had to fly into Amman and told me that it took him a whopping 8 hours to get across the border into Israel just because of his Iraqi visa!
I don’t recall my barcode my second time exiting the country, but I can tell you that I had a unique experience… of my own making! Having spent volunteer time in the army (and lots on the beach), I had a collection of spent bullets mixed with shells that I was taking home (I thought it was cool art for a bowl?). Well, I had forgotten to leave behind the one live round of ammunition that was also in my collection. So, sheepishly, I approached the first security guard and held out the bullet, explaining my stupidity and saying I didn’t want to just throw it in the trash. He asked me a bunch of questions and then called over another guy to ask me a bunch of questions. Most of it centered on questions of Judaism and not even the bullet, which had me sure I was going to be tripped up. I was sweating bullets (pun intended) but then never pulled me away from the main security line throughout and eventually I passed through after about ten minutes and nothing special went on with my bags, checked or carry-on. I’m only hoping that as I gear up to return in a few months they haven’t put me on some list that says “This idiot girl likes to bring home bullets as souvenirs, give her a hard time if she ever comes back.”
Yikes! At least you were honest and up front about it. Did you get to keep the live bullet or did they take that? Haha and yes, you probably ended up on some special list. I doubt I’d fare all that well now that I’ve been to Iraq either…
Lucky you, then. If you had done the same thing in India, you’d be thrown in jail for months, granted that person didn’t notify them, because he didn’t realize that he had a bullet lodged in his bag..
But, I don’t wish to offend you, it was seriously foolish of you to bring shells with you, it doesn’t pose a threat, but it sure as hell raises a few questions, so other than sharing your experience (by educating others not to follow your footsteps), you have no reason to complain, it was super suspicious..
Hi, I was marked as 5, as my luggage had an Emirates sticker. They asked me why I had it and replied that I travelled once from Malta to Cyprus with Emirates and never been to UAE. As it seems , they did not believe it. The weird thing is that my luggage was locked with three digit locker. When I opened it at home, I found out inside an official Israeli document which says that it was opened as they saw something strange in it. They did not violate the locker. The only different from my entrance was a small wooden case with a bottle of wine, a gift from an Israeli colleague…maybe they wanted to ckeck it more.
Wait, so when you got home, they had opened your luggage and taken the wine, but the lock was still on your bag?
In the U.S., these days, all luggage locks you can buy can be opened by airport security folks. That’s obnoxious, though, that they found you suspicious just for flying Emirates…
Hi , when I entered Israel I had only clothes in my bag. A colleague offered me a very good wine in a wooden case. So the only difference, when leaving the country, was the wine. They did not take it. The lock is an incorporated one , with three digits combination. It was not violated, so I suppose that they found somehow the combination and opened the bag. The document says that all the process is recorded , so if I have any problem with missing parts, then I can ask for the video. Nothing was missing.
Oh, interesting. I’m sure they’ve got some way to get into luggage locks. They’ve figured that out in the U.S. (all locks sold nowadays can be opened by security personnel…it’s the law). Good thing everything was still in your bag!
I travel to Israel/Palestine 2 or 3 times a year and have been on level 5 for a long time.
Travelling through Tel Aviv only yesterday was very different as suitcases were not scanned in the usual way but everybody was told to leave them unopened! Getting home and opening y case I discovered that the entire contents had been removed and thrown back in. I think i’d rather go back to the old system because Security show a little more respect with your belongings when they open it in front of you.
Last year I had an entire case destroyed!
Yeesh! I’d heard that they were moving to a “behind-the-scenes” scanning system for checked luggage, similar to what exists in most airports around the world. It seems, though, that they’ve basically retained their old habits, of going through every item individually. Though now it’s not done in front of you. Comforting, really… I wouldn’t say they showed respect for my belongings on the old system though. They didn’t repack it either! Everything was left in a heap for me to put away!
You’ve had the pleasure of going through the new system they are using in the airport, I think they took inspiration from the US.
They said they would leave a piece of paper if your suitcase is opened, and that only a small % of luggage is actually opened.
Since yours was opened, could you share the thing they left inside? Unless they didn’t? Which was my concern for my flight this week.. they can steal stuff from my bag and I wouldn’t be able to blame them..
I went through airport security at Ben Gurion yesterday. I wasn’t aware of the questioning at the beginning but luckily always arrive early before a flight and the airport wasn’t very busy.. When asked about my flight ticket I handed them my itinerary for the whole trip during the week. I was coming back to London but had been to Dubai earlier in the week for business and then flew to Tel Aviv through Amman a couple of days later. I stayed in Israel for business but also to visit a few places. As soon as they realised I was in Dubai beforehand the tone changed and they became much more suspicious.. I was quite oblivious and answered all the weird questions. They then left a sticker onto my passport but again didn’t know what it meant.. I was subject to full search of my carry on bag. Most of the other people were young females (from France) and I wondered what kind of profiling was going on there as it seemed a bit weird!! It is only today that I realised that the number on the sticker meant I was a serious threat (nr 5) and I am really astonished by this (especially as I have always been a fan of this country). Being a female alone, having been to Dubai on the same trip and connecting through Jordan apparently makes me a suspected terrorist…
Lucky you got there early! I had been warned that it would take a while so I got there extra early. I’m not surprised by your story, though. It echoes so many others that I’ve heard of people who have been to Middle Eastern countries who suddenly have an enormously hard time, either with immigration or, even more commonly, at Ben Gurion Airport. Just by virtue of having been to Dubai and Jordan (with whom Israel has a peace treaty), you become suspicious, much like I did for having visited Egypt and Jordan while I was in Israel. Sure I was a solo male traveler, but I had come to Israel with a Jewish group and also ended up a 5!
While I was in Israel, I met an American citizen on a bus to Eilat, who was teaching English in Iraqi Kurdistan. As there are no flights between Iraq and Tel Aviv, he had flown into Amman and crossed the border via the King Hussein Bridge into the West Bank. He told me that it took him 8 hours to clear that border thanks to his Iraqi visa!
Yes that was lucky indeed! I still can’t get over the fact that I was a “strong suspect”! It is amazing as well how much more suspicious you become all over the world when you’re travelling solo as a man or a woman. To be honest the security checks I went through were not that bad, just a swab of my carry on and shoes, I didn’t have to go to the Xray machine or to a special room… I really want to go back to Israel as I loved it so much and hope it will never be worse than what I had this time… I also would like to visit more Arab countries like Jordan but I’m not so sure about it now as it will only make things worse. I understand they have to be careful and have tight security but is it maybe a tad over the top?
Indeed it is amazing how solo travelers are more suspicious, though I suppose it kind of makes sense. Someone actually told me that solo American Jewish males were actually quite suspicious to Israeli authorities. Can you imagine that?
So they only swabbed your carry on bag, not the entire contents within it? Legitimately every single item in my carry on was swabbed one by one. And I went through a metal detector.
Jordan is really wonderful. Petra alone is worth the trip as it remains one of the most incredible places I have ever visited. And the Jordanian people are very warm and friendly. You can still visit by flying into Amman. Or flying into Tel Aviv and subjecting yourself to Israeli airport security again (crossing the border into Jordan is pretty straightforward, though I got held up getting back into Israel via the West Bank while they took my passport and carry on bag to the back for a while before unceremoniously dumping everything in the middle of the floor…).
Hello! I had a couple questions and was wondering if anyone had advice or warnings. I’m traveling to Israel on birthright on an American passport, and will definitely be extending my trip. I plan on traveling to Jordan and Lebanon by land, but here’s the problem: my boyfriend (who is American but has a Jordanian passport) will be meeting up with me after birthright is done. Does anyone have advice on border crossings or problems that might arise with this? We haven’t decided in which order we’ll be visiting the countries, although right now it looks like we will meet in Lebanon, then Israel, then end in Jordan, after which I would travel back to Tel Aviv alone. Thanks so much!
You CANNOT visit Lebanon by land from Israel and Lebanon will refuse you entry if your passport shows any evidence that you have been to Israel before. The only way you could make that work would be to ask Israel not to stamp your passport and then fly from Amman to Beirut. However, you would probably have a difficult time re-entering Israel after visiting Lebanon. Likewise, if the Israeli border guards decide to stamp your passport anyways, or Jordan stamps on a crossing with Israel, you will be refused entry to Lebanon. The two countries are still technically at war with each other, hence these ridiculous policies. Alternatively, you could visit Lebanon first before you ever go to Israel, but it does not sound like that will be possible for you since you are going to Israel with Birthright.
Seems like your best bet would be to plan to meet your boyfriend in Jordan. Or Egypt. Either one of those countries is fine, just not Lebanon.
Hey there, I haven’t had anything as bad as some of those German tourists but after visiting Cartagena, Colombia I had to fly back to Canada through Bogota and interestingly they said I was selected for a random body search even though about a fifth of the people on my flight were as well. This seems to be routine since apparently Bogota has more cocaine traveling though it than any other airport in the world. Anyways I plan on visiting Israel in the fall and I was hoping you could help me out with a few questions I’d like to ask you. I’m planing on visiting Israel to see biblical sights because I’m Christian and I’ll be coming to Israel after visiting the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, the UK, Italy, the Vatican and Greece on the same trip in that order. Before that I will not have travelled to a single Islamic courtry but after that I will be flying to Istanbul, Turkey and then to Cairo to see the pyramids, the Nile and the Egyptian museum. I will only be in each of these countries for between 1-3 days and the only stamps I have in my passport are from Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia as well as a few in transit stamps from the US and Switzerland. I’m Canadian as is my passport and I’m of Dutch, German and very distant Irish and English descent as my dad’s dad is from the Netherlands and my dad’s mom is from Germany, so since my last name is Dutch I won’t have a problem if I don’t mention I’m part German will I? I’m sorry this is so long but you don’t see any red flags going up from any of this information, do you? Thanks very much!
I don’t really know what to tell you, sorry! Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania might cause you some problems, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do to minimize your risk of raising red flags. I wouldn’t mention anything about German heritage though.
Enjoy your trip! Sounds like a great one! Istanbul is AMAZING (more on that here) and Cairo is totally crazy (in a good, albeit somewhat overwhelming way). More on Cairo here. If you’re interested in Christian sites, be sure to check out the Coptic churches in Cairo…they’re very unique!
Here is the best way to answer the questions you had been asked so that you will pass through as quickly as possible.
Q “Where are you going,” he asked?
A “New York”
Q “Do you have any family in Israel?”
Q “Did anyone give you anything to bring back with you,” he inquired?
Q “So your bag hasn’t left your sight?
Q “Who packed your bag?”
A “I did.”
Q “Is this your first time in Israel?
A “Yes” (Which would eliminate the next question)
Q “Hmmm. What brought you to Israel?”
A “I was on vacation” Which would eliminate the next two questions
“Are you particularly religious?”
“High holidays or something?”
“Like most of Israel then,” he chuckled.
That would eliminate the following questions about Birthright
Q “Do you speak any other languages?
Q “What about any Hebrew?”
A “I picked up a few words during MY VACATION.”
“Sorry to ask again, but who packed your bags?”
If he/she would ask again if you ever came to Israel before, only then you would mention passing through, and without saying to where, unless they ask.
Less is better, particularly to yes and no questions.
Thank you for the story, and I am glad that Israel is so cautious. Believe it or not, some diaspora Jews and even Israelis have collaborated with terrorists, and have supplied weaponry in Sinai, for money. Many Israelis, particularly in border control and airport security have a difficult time understanding why a Jew would want to visit any Arab country, due to the tension within those countries and with regard to Israel, and because many Muslims despise Jews. Let alone visiting Arab cities in Judea and Samaria.
Thanks for the advice. While I’ve certainly withheld parts of the truth when talking to security officials before (I NEVER tell immigration folks that I write a blog…that tends to spur red flags), I’ve never outright lied to one before. But I do agree that less is better. I’m sure it was the fact that I mentioned I had visited Egypt and Jordan that set me off, though, to be fair, the guy was flipping through my passport at the time, so he probably would have noticed it anyways and I didn’t want to be caught lying to him…
I did hear after the fact from others who have visited Israel that American Jewish men traveling alone raise suspicions. Thanks for shedding some light on why that is!
Hey there, I might be late to the party but maybe I can share something that could potentially help others, it´s not some crazy top secret trick, but just using common sense.
You do NOT want to joke with the staff, they are trained to first and foremost to racially profile the crowd.
The next “red flag” is whether or not you’re traveling alone, it’s not a definitive criteria, but if you’re being asked personal questions it’s because of that.
Regarding the questions, every single group/person gets questioned, if a family of 3 arrives, the they would address the family as a whole, but generally speaking, everyone gets questioned, so it’s not a sign of anything.
Visiting neighboring countries is another “red flag” that they can’t simply shrug off as being “normal”, once they establish that your story makes sense, you’re good to go.
It can be overwhelming for a first timer, but, the most important thing you can do is simply not joke about anything, when they ask you whether or not you packed the suitcase yourself, don’t be joking about how you packed all your bombs neatly, or that Osama packed it for you. Even subtle jokes can flag you as a potential threat.
If you’re uncomfortable with that.. you might want to skip Israel on your “birthright” trip.
Yes I very much agree with this. You should NEVER joke about anything when it comes to airport security as everyone is on high alert. If you joked that there were bombs in your suitcase at any airport in the world, you would be arrested.
Thanks for the information about “red flags.” I can see why solo travelers would be more suspicious than families. But I would also think that many people who visit Israel would take the opportunity to visit Petra in Jordan or Mount Sinai in Egypt. Seems a little silly that this is a red flag, particularly as it was never really a problem re-entering Israel by land from either Egypt or Jordan.
Hey. I read your blog before going to Israel and it really helped me “keep calm and carry on.”
I hold a European passport and was born in a Muslim country, though not Arab. Upon arrival, I was traveling alone, I was screened for 2 hours and asked to “go to that room with a cola machine” – i liked that generic description. The two hours were mostly waiting with two short interviews which consists of following questions,
i. what is your father’s first name?
ii. what is your grand father’s first name?
iii. where were they born?
iv. what was there religion?
v. what is your religion? (to this i replied, i am non-theist, and she asked me ‘what religion is this?’)
(note, no significance whatsoever given to mother or grandmother)
And, I was asked to unlock my Android phone and show my “contact list,” which funnily enough was impossible for the security officer. She was clueless how to navigate through my custom rom with custom launcher and many other things. After poking around, which I could see, helplessly, for 5 minutes, she gave up and asked me politely: please open your contacts list. When I opened, she failed to see all the contacts and once again, asked me to “show me your family contacts.”
After that, I was given the entry permit which was timestamped *2.5 hours earlier*!
Upon exit, I was given barcode starting with 6. No real question were asked. But, once I went through security, the staff as soon as they noticed the barcode, asked me to follow and put me another queue: there, then an argument broke out among them with a lot of pointing to me and others and shrugging shoulders from other staff – i guess they were thinking how come this person didn’t come to *this* queue.
Next, 1.5 hours in wait since there were 5 more people in front of me including a french couple, a Scandinavian girl, an Arab family all except the latter were stereotypically Europeans so I am not sure what to make of racial profiling, I guess it was simply ‘profiling’. Here, I didn’t have any trouble as well since I actually had nothing with me except a slingshot bag with papers. I went through normal body check which I guess is routine. The only nonroutine thing was this: while i was going through body check, the security was constant on the phone and was taking instructions and asked me repeatedly to “lift left leg,” “show the jeans zipper,” after talking to whoever he was talking to on the phone – this process was standard for rest of passengers in the same queue. But it wasn’t too bad: because, while I was waiting I saw 4 people including a middle aged man, an old lady, and two young girls going to a small room from which their under wears, bras, etc were passed outside – all this was very visible and everyone around me started to whisper when it happened.
Later, upon the exit stamp counter, the guy looking at my passport, chuckled: “so they give you much trouble getting in?” I told him, “not really,” and he stamped and handed back my passport, “you are alright.”
What do you make of all this, I leave it to you: I, on the other hand, not looking forward to visit Israel again – unless it is really required as part of my work, which was this time.
That’s quite an experience. Thanks for sharing your story. That is kind of funny that the woman couldn’t figure out how to work your phone…
I can’t say I had any trouble when I flew into Ben Gurion or when I came back from Egypt. Coming back from Jordan, though, they decided they needed to take my daypack (with my laptop) and my passport to a back room for “additional screening,” though they did not request the password to my laptop. This was at the King Hussein Bride crossing between Jordan and the West Bank (near Jericho). Finally, almost an hour later they brought out a cart and just dumped everyone’s bags on the middle of the floor! Then a woman walked out with a stack of all of our passports (the group at this point was me and a bunch of Palestinians) and just stood there sipping her coffee for 5 min or so. A Palestinian woman told me “It’s always like this.” Finally she started calling names and then I was on my merry way. The immigration guy asked me my name and then asked if I was Jewish, to which I replied yes. He stamped me back in and I was out the door.
This was all before I visited Iraq. Can’t imagine what would happen if I returned now on my current passport…
I am Jewish and I have travelled in and out of Israel countless times since I first went in 1994. Last year I went for the first time with my young daughter and my (second) husband. My daughter is from my first marriage to an Israeli who now lives in Sydney, Australia and when I remarried, I did not change my family name again, so my new passport has my maiden family name in it. When we were leaving Ben Gurion, we were put the third degree by no less than 6 security staff, all of whom seemed a bit perplexed as to why three members of a family all had different family names. I explained over and over again that I had remarried and chosen not to take my second husband’s surname and that my daughter’s surname is the same as her biological father. I speak very fluent Hebrew so that helped but nevertheless, it took us over 2 hours to get through security before checking in our luggage, it was so frustrating. My husband is also Jewish and has mixed Spanish/Greek heritage and I suppose to look at him, he fits many ethnic profiles, he could probably also pass as an Arab. I am assuming that he is the reason that we were detained so long, they asked him lots of questions about Judiasm and a Jewish life, they even asked my husband to recite Kiddush and the Aleph-bet (Hebrew alphabet). All in all, very frustrating and it meant that we had very little time left at the airport for goodbyes with our family and friends, we wasted all our time in the security lines. I understand the reasons for such thorough security, but it does leave a very bad taste at the end of an otherwise fantastic trip.
Thanks for sharing your experience Kylie. That’s terrible what your family was put through! I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I would have been traveling with my parents (we each have different family names). Since you travel to Israel rather frequently, I feel like once you passed that interview they should have put a special indication on your barcode that you’d been cleared this time so this doesn’t happen again or something like that…
hi I am Canadian citizen , born in Iran, like to travel to israel in Oct with my
Canadian passport. I am just wondering anyone with similar status can advice me what to expect. I am female and have plan to travel alone.
I’m assuming your Canadian passport says where you were born. So you should expect that it will take you a while to enter the country and expect a thorough interview when you fly out of Tel Aviv. As I mentioned in some earlier comments, I have an American friend who was teaching in Iraqi Kurdistan and had an Iraqi visa. He had to fly to Amman and cross into Israel via the King Hussein Bridge, which connects Jordan and the West Bank. He reported that it took him nearly 8 hours to get through immigration.
Others, though, seem to breeze through on their way in. I sure did, and I went in and out of Israel 3 times. So you never know. I do think, though, that you should prepare yourself for a lengthy and intrusive experience. They’ll almost definitely let you in eventually, it just might take a little while. Take it all with a grain of salt and accept the fact that it’s just the way things work in Israel…
hello! firstly,i like your website,it’s great 🙂
so,i’m european woman and this summer i’m going to israel. i am very afraid of this security checks and stuff.everybody says it’s terrible.
i would like you to ask something,because i really don’t know what to do, if they ask me if i’m jewish. i have some jewish roots from my maternal grandmoter an some from my father(his granddad was jew).others were christians .i have no religion.i don’t know much about any,because my parents are atheists. i wasn’t baptised,or had bat mitzvah-nothing.don’t even celebrate any holidays
so,if they ask me if i’m jewish,i think that i can’t say ‘yes’. should i say ‘no’,or tell them that i have som jewish roots or ancestors,whatever? will they ask me then about their names or surnames?? oh,yeah and can you tell me if the staff in airport are nice and polite,or are they rude?
Thanks for stopping by! I think Judaism is technically carried on the mother’s side (I was told the reasoning for this was because it’s possible you wouldn’t know who the biological father was), but since neither of your direct parents was Jewish I don’t think you should say anything about your Jewish ancestry unless they specifically ask you if you have any Jewish relatives, which I think would be doubtful if you tell them that you are not Jewish (which sounds like the truth).
That said, I’m kinda in the same boat as you. My parents both grew up Jewish but they’re primarily atheist now and I wasn’t raised Jewish. We just practiced the cultural aspects (so, Chanukah and Passover). That was Jewish enough to get me on a Birthright trip (and hey, who wouldn’t want a free trip to Israel). I never had a bar mitvah either. But it sounds like I have a bigger background in Judaism than you do.
They never asked about any of my relatives, just if I had any family in Israel. That was it. And everyone was very polite throughout the whole process, which is more than I can say for some of the border guards at the King Hussein Bridge crossing between the West Bank and Jordan…
Don’t sweat the security checks. They’re obnoxious but you’ll get used to them. You literally walk through a metal detector whenever you enter a public place…a mall, a bus station, etc. And the airport? Well, just think of the stories you’ll be able to tell!
I have never traveled abroad and therefor have NO EXPERIENCE WHATSOEVER to give to my daughter and her fiancé, who are traveling to Israel Aug 26. I’m so nervous about her traveling there right now. I know there has been a cease fire in place now for over 3 days but I’m still uneasy.
Let me begin by stating they are visiting their Palestinian friend who lives in Jerusalem. Really i’m so uneducated about things in that area that I didn’t know Palestinians could live in Israel. Can they??? Are my kids giving me correct info? And from reading some of the comments to your blog and other internet articles; you’re suspect if you have any ties (friends) that are Palestinian. SO i’m confused. I just want the kids to know what to expect and know what to say to security so that their entrance into Israel will go as smoothly as possible.
Car rentals; my daughter is 20 and her fiancé is 21. They want to rent a car. I’ve read in some places you have to be 24 and others 21 is acceptable but they may have to pay a little more. Are you savvy to renting cars in Israel? Since her fiancé is 21 the reservation will be in his name. They were informed that the car rental companies do not accept bank visa/debit cards. We had to add him as a cardholder under our amex account so they would have a major credit card to reserve the car. Now we’re ready to make the reservation. Do you think its best to rent the car online before they leave? or should they do it at the airport?
Money; my daughter has her bank visa card. We put money on that for her. They were going to withdrawal a little bit of money from it and convert it to the Israel’s currency when they need it for gas, food, etc… What would you recommend for them to do with their spending money. What are the international fee’s when using your atm card?
I think thats all the questions I have right now.
Yes, some Palestinians do indeed live in Israel, as do other ethnic groups as well. However, it is also quite possible that your daughter’s friend lives in East Jerusalem, which is technically Palestinian Territory, though Israel does not treat it this way. I don’t think I’ll ever forget wandering out of the side of the Old City that opened to East Jerusalem, when a very friendly gentlemen welcomed me to “Occupied Palestine.” It’s probably best for your kids to tell immigration and security officials that they’re simply visiting a friend in Jerusalem, without specifying that they are Palestinian. I too was advised not to mention any time spent in the West Bank, though I’m pretty sure the fact that I also went to Egypt and Jordan is what did me in.
Yes, basically anywhere in the world will require a credit card in order to rent a car, as they generally put a hold on your card until your return the car. I don’t suppose it really matters that much if you rent the car online or at the airport, though things may go faster if you rent online ahead of time. It might be cheaper as well, or it might not be. Do be advised that Amex may charge you an international transaction fee of up to 3% of the transaction. Some cards waive international transaction fees, but most don’t. Also, be sure to alert your bank that the kids will be traveling so the card doesn’t get flagged for fraudulent activity. Same with the debit card.
Israel is a very easy country to navigate by credit/debit card, though, again, you’ll likely face international transaction fees. They vary by bank. Are these U.S.-based cards? The best means of obtaining cash is to just withdraw Israeli Shekels from an ATM, though, again, you may see high fees when making withdrawals. The issuing bank will tell you what the fees for ATM withdrawals abroad will be. I know with Bank of America it used to cost me $5 every time I used an ATM outside of the U.S., which is why I switched to a bank that charges no ATM fees whatsoever (Charles Schwab Bank).
Hope this helps!
I have read through your post and all subsequent comments with fascination, and with increasing fear. My wife and I will travel from Hong Kong (we are Hungarians but have lived here for 17 years) to Jordan for three weeks at the end of the year and originally thought we would spend 4-5 days in Israel. We planned to cross from Aqaba to Eilat, take a bus to Jerusalem, enjoy the city and then fly back to Amman to catch our return flight to Hong Kong. Reading all these experiences here we might change plans. In the past two years we have travelled, amongst others, to several muslim countries and territories (Xinjiang, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey), own and frequently visit a beachside holiday home in Malaysia, have been to North Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam and all other SE Asian countries several times, and in October we will be visiting Morocco, the UAE and Oman. In short, on paper we might be considered the worst possible enemy of Israel and be put immediately in a danger class so high that its barcode hasn’t even been invented.
Needless to say, the last thing we need is a lengthy and intrusive investigation trying to enter or leave Israel. It’s a shame, because we would love to experience the country. Our son spent there two weeks in 2012 and immensely enjoyed it … What do you think?
You might want to reverse the order of your itinerary in Israel. Fly from Amman to Tel Aviv and then cross back to Jordan by land. Or cross to Jordan by land in both directions, as it’s really quite close. You’ll definitely encounter the most intense security scrutiny when flying out of Israel rather flying into it. Do note that if you decide to do both directions by land, I would suggest entering via Aqaba and leaving either that way or via the King Hussein Bridge. I would not suggest trying to enter Israel via the King Hussein bridge as they are particularly strict at that checkpoint, as it’s the one that enters the West Bank. I think you’ll face less scrutiny with either of these scenarios.
I would hardly say you’d be considered the “worst enemy of Israel” based on the countries you listed. You could be from one of those countries…that would make your experience entering the country much more difficult. Or you could have traveled to Iran… But no doubt you’ll face a harder time entering Israel via any of the aforementioned ways thanks to the places you’ve been. Just mentally prepare yourselves for a lengthy and potentially intrusive process and be patient. I can’t say I’ve ever heard of Israel refusing entry to anyone based on where they’ve traveled, so I’m sure they’ll eventually let you in. It just might take longer than a standard immigration process.
I don’t think a fear of what you may face should stop you from visiting Israel, though, as there are some truly fantastic sites to be seen in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Religious or not, it’s cool to see all those religious sites you’ve heard about your whole life… Not to mention that you might overlap with some religious holidays, which could make for a very cool experience (that said, I hated Christmas Eve in Bethlehem….more on that here).
Hope this helps!
Hi , I will be visiting Israel/Palestine in November, I’m worried though because of all this security. I am of Spanish descent so I don’t think that’s a problem. I will be visiting Istanbul for 3 days beforehand mostly for religious reasons(Orthodox Christian), such as Hagia Sophia etc. then I am planning to fly into Tel Aviv, will it be hard to enter? I’m staying in Israel for a month. Travelling around religious sites and also want to visit Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron which I know are in Palestinian Territories, which also have important religious sites as a Christian. I am wondering if when I leave, if I can leave from Amman? Would you say I should take Aqaba or KH crossing? I don’t want to experience so many problems. I am Canadian by the way and 18 travelling alone for first time without family, which like you said before is suspicious to them although I’m here for religious tourism though I’d like to visit tel aviv and Haifa too. Any advice would be great. Thanks.
I doubt you’ll have any issues. And yes, flying out of Amman would certainly be easier for you than flying out of Tel Aviv, as they will likely ask on departure if you visited the West Bank, which it sounds like you will. If you’ll already be in the West Bank, it might make more sense to take the KH bridge. That said, when I visited, you needed a pre-arranged visa to cross via the KH Bridge but you did NOT need a visa to cross via the Aqaba crossing, so that’s something to consider. Also, going via Aqaba you should definitely stop by Petra. It’s one of the real highlights of the region.
Just be honest with the immigration people that you’re going to see the Christian sites. There are many Christians who go for religious tourism so I doubt it’s anything that would raise any red flags. And enjoy your time there. I found Hebron to be particularly interesting (and troubling) as it almost feels like a prison for the Palestinians who live there…
Hafia is also wonderful and the Baha’i Gardens are really stunning!
I have more Israeli stamps in my passport than anything else (apart from US entry stamps). I also have the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia… the only two Muslim countries I have traveled to.
LET ME TELL YOU… I ALWAYS get screened and get a 5 or a 6. It takes forever, and I typically fly by myself because I am in Israel to do business with a government foundation. After my first experience I have had the foundation write me a letter for the airport security and guess what… IT NEVER MATTERS. I just expect to get the entire gamut of intense security. In the end, however, I don’t mind. I know what they face and how fearful life is in Israel on a daily basis. I in fact leave for Israel tomorrow, and on the way back have a layover in Germany for only 55 minutes… now I know how early to arrive at Ben Gurion .I must say though, on the way back from a long trip throughout Asia I was interrogated much longer and more intensely in the US than I ever was in Israel… just hoping that does not change tomorrow!
I totally understand why Israel needs to secure their airport the way that they do, but I do think that things could be done a bit differently so it’s not such a negative experience for travelers. I don’t look forward to flying through TLV again and I bet most of the people who have commented here feel the same way.
As for U.S. Immigration, they almost didn’t let me return home from a road trip to Toronto because they thought I had “mutilated” my Thai visa (it was about 8 years old at that point and peeling up in this weird pattern of “x’s”), so I feel your pain…
I like to travel alone, but it seems that in Ben Gurion airport it is a some kind of a curse. I’ve been there thrice in the last year and every time they tream me differently. At least a year ago they didnt have that famous automatic luggage check system so I understand why they checked my suitcase manually. But why do this again now when that automatic system is being advertised on the airport screens and I am standing as an idiot while they are going through my packed underwear and clothes with the sticks. I am ok with it if they’d do the same to everyone, but from the huge crowd me and 2 other women were the only ones to be requested to open suitcases and show insides. And then I was taken to check-in to make sure the suitcase goes as it is, and i dont add there anything and i was followed by security, as if i were a prisoner, only one in the whole airport. I have russian passport, dress very casually, have not been to muslim countries, and work in IT. What is it in me that special to be checked again and again, I wonder.
I’ve heard time and again that solo travelers are particularly suspicious to the Israeli authorities. That was my situation and seemingly the situation of countless others who have shared their stories here, so that’s probably why you get singled out so much.
That’s really sucky that they still randomly go through people’s luggage in public like they used to! How embarrassing is that to be singled out like that? T
Thanks for sharing your story. Hopefully future trips to the region will be better for you!
Hi Aaron, fascinating stuff. Thanks to you and the other posters for sharing. I’ve heard that the least helpful EU passport to enter Israel with is an Irish one. Any thoughts?
I can’t say I’ve ever heard that before. I have heard reports about Germans having issues, but not any other European nationals.
Its a nice blog … I liked the many different stories shared here … I’m Algerian with Algerian passport … never been to israhell and will never be … I travel a lot for business …Suspicion is a very common thing with me … Especially that I’m an Algerian Muslim with Algerian passport and my Name is Mouslem ….hhhh … hell this world …. sometimes I even think that the world is set the way that Muslim’s or their friends shouldn’t travel …but anyway its the way it is …All we can do is to hope a very good luck for every one shared their story here …
Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
I am looking for what I can do to get a reimbursement for a damaged laptop, which was taken away from me for inspection at the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv and sent back to me broken. The screen has a huge scratch in the middle and now is useless.
Nothing I had tried so far had worked and I am hoping to receive
advices from you on what else I can possibly do.
My carry-on baggage was inspected by the airport security personnel during my check-in at the airport in Tel aviv on October 30, 2014. The laptop was taken out of my hand baggage by the authorities for an inspection.
I was told that the laptop would be inspected and safely sent to me on the next flight (I also received a claim ticket for the baggage.)
I had received the laptop broken on November 1st 2014, one day after my arrival in Argentina.
The laptop was delivered in a small box, wrapped merely in a couple of cushioned envelopes on side.
From further inspection I could tell that the laptop must have been
destroyed during the shipping to muy house, before it was improperly packaged and mishandled during the flight.
Just today I had received an answer from Alitalia, in which they pretty much said they were sorry to hear about my misfortune, but there was nothing they were going to do about it.
If you have some advice or any number of some agency that can help me to solve this situation I will be very grateful.
That’s really awful! Unfortunately I can’t say I’ve heard of anyone with such an experience before, so I’m afraid I don’t have any advice for you. If you purchased Travel Insurance, or purchased your ticket with a credit card that has travel insurance benefits, then the insurance or credit card may reimburse you for the damages to your laptop. As far as Israeli security authorities, my only suggestion is to try the official website for Ben Gurion airport, though the site had server issues when I tried to access it…. http://www.iaa.gov.il/en-US/airports/bengurion/Pages/default.aspx.
Hi, I am planning to stay in Israel (Jerusalem) and West Bank (Betlehem and maybe Ramallah) for a few days in order to record some video interviews of ordinary Palestinians and Israelis about the situation there: their lives, their dreams, how they imagine their future. I will take a hand baggage only with clothes, a tablet, a handycam, a tripod, a few MiniDV cassettes and a voice recorder. I am a european male in his late forties and will travel alone. No suspect stamps on my UK passport. I guess it’s more than enough to be considered a suspect criminal, right? Would you openly tell the security the reason I am travelling to Israel? Thanks for any advice and best to all.
Well, criminal isn’t the word I would use, but you’ll almost certainly gain extra screening. From what I’ve heard, Israeli security does not take kindly to people who try and highlight the Palestinian cause, so you may want to bend your story a bit to leave that part out, as it will probably make your life somewhat easier.
hi , thank you for your detailed story , now i have an idea of what ill go through on march, my questions is the following, i am traveling from miami to amman and then from amman tthrough the allenby bridge into israel. would i need a visa for those countries ? or like egypt they processed it at the airport ? thank you
these are the cities i am visiting
It’s not possible to answer any visa questions without knowing which country issues your passport, as visa rules differ for every nationality. Presuming that you’re American given that you’re leaving from Miami, you would need a Jordanian visa, which IS obtainable at the airport. Details about that can be found from the U.S. State Department (or whatever country issues your passport): http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/country/jordan.html
Basically, I am a white guy with eastern European descent. They asked me a bunch of questions, including why was I nervous and stuttering. My stutter is pretty sensitive subject to me and I did not appreciate them bringing it up. At that point I was furious and did try to hide it.They assigned me number 6, now I thought they were beyond paranoid. They swabbed every item in my carry-on, including my underwear. Brought my shoes through the scanner and patted down my socks. Bunch of idiotic morons. Yeah I’m a real threat, can throw my mouse and a keyboard at them. They should be catching real terrorists, not some programmer who likes to travel.
I agree that they’re methods are too much, though I can’t imagine that the fact you got upset helped you out very much. I too would be offended if they asked me about something like that, but getting upset will only make them look into your more deeply. You’re actually lucky they let you bring anything on the plane at all! Some “suspicious” people are forced to check every item except their wallets and passports! But it really does make you never want to fly through Israel again, doesn’t it?
Is it possible to get into Israel again if I have got a 6?
I believe so. Never heard of anyone being refused entry to Israel, though I’m sure some have.
The same with me, they brought up very personal things and didnt believe me any word from the first second…. which made me nervous and this nervousity brought me a 6 in the end.
Yikes! I’m sure the fact that it made you nervous didn’t help, though I can’t blame you for being nervous!
I’m Colombian and of course I’m kind of used to security checks and intrusive search thru my bags, let me say your blog is great and before reading it I had no clue it was more complicated to leave Tel Aviv than arriving. I’m planning to go there in May and my concern is as I’m living in Bahrain for more than 5 years, with a big residence sticker on my passport and also have couple of stamps from UAE, Turkey, Egypt if they are going to let me into Israel, also would like to know if anyone who has been there recently could tell me if they are still putting a sticker on the passport (or separate paper) that is easy to remove after and not a stamp that may affect my way back to Bahrain.
I guess being a resident of a gulf country will give me a # 6 on my way out, which I”ll be prepared with patience to answer all their questions. I’ll probably just bring with me a low range camera and change my phone for a small Nokia…..
Yes, strangely enough, Israel makes it harder to leave then to enter, but in your case, that may not be true. While I was in Israel, I met a fellow American who was teaching in Iraqi Kurdistan (who inspired my trip to Iraq). He had to fly to Amman and cross by land into the West Bank and he told me that it took him nearly 8 hours to get across that border with an Iraqi residence sticker! To the best of my knowledge, Israel does not refuse entry to those who live in Muslim countries, but you should expect a lengthy and obnoxious time entering Israel, as well as leaving it.
Also, Israel has since stopped stamping passports if you fly in (though if you cross by land you’ll have stamps from other countries indicating you came from Israel), so you shouldn’t be concerned about having issues getting back into Bahrain. Instead they give you a card which you keep and return at exit (similar to what Hong Kong does these days). Just make sure you aren’t required to get an Israeli visa in advance, as that would be a dead give away. If Colombia issues your passport, you shouldn’t need one, so that’s good. Just remember to remain calm with all the security proceedings. Losing your temper will only make the process worse for you (as several commenters here can attest to).
I recently went through Ben Gurion. I was a little paranoid about what would happen as I had been visiting a friend who works for an NGO in the West Bank, but the terminal was really quiet and after my “questioning” I was given a 5 and went straight through. The only additional thing that happened to me was a bag swab. I was a bit peeved with the 5 at first because they didn’t even ask me what my friend did or where I had been in the country. They were the two red flags I was expecting to set off, but they never even came up and I was still apparently a 5. Out of curiosity I had a look the bar-code numbers on the passports of the people around me, and I don’t think the numbering system is as clear cut or means as much as is speculated. There were three guys in the queue in front of me, all around my age, all from western countries and all who also were a 5. From my experience it just seems to be some kind of basic profiling, which probably triggered the swab when I got to security proper. I reckon your demeanor and answers have a much greater bearing on what happens next (and your perceived level of threat) than the number you’re given.
Not that I’m saying the heavy handed approach is really justified with most of the people who receive it.
I’ve heard that men from Western countries traveling alone raise suspicions to Israeli security, which may explain the people in your line. My “5” experience was similar, in that the people in my special security line didn’t look like they belonged there. So, yes, there is a lot of profiling going on. And if you think about history and Israel’s position in the world, you can see why they take airport security so seriously. It’s kind of funny. Living in the U.S., I always find that other countries security is considerably more relaxed than what we have here (Few other countries requires people to take off their shoes, for example). But Israel? Their security makes the TSA look like a piece of cake!
I’m going to Israel for vacation for a week and a little worried because I am a white female American traveling alone and according to this blog that is very suspicious. I am meeting my husband there but we are flying both ways separately because he is on a business trip so his company is paying for his direct business class flight while I am making a stop in Austria and flying coach both ways. I plan to get to the airport 3 hours early for my 6am flight home– would that be enough time?
Three hours before your flight is fine. You in fact might not be able to start the security process earlier than three hours before (I wasn’t able to) and have to wait at the check in area until the three hour mark. It’s really nothing to worry about. Just answer their questions honestly, and try not to get offended or annoyed, and you’ll be fine. They are perfectly pleasant when they ask the questions; it doesn’t feel like an integration and wasn’t stressful or anything.
Great advice! It absolutely didn’t feel like an interrogation for me. The guy was very pleasant throughout the interview process.
i should add that i have no controversial stamps in my passport.
I would imagine that you’ll probably be fine. I’ve heard before that men traveling alone raise more suspicion than women traveling alone. You’re flying Austrian Airlines, I assume? Vienna has a nice airport with easy city access if you have a long layover!
I know what it feels like. I’m only 13 and I’ve traveled to Europe at least 12 times, but got pulled over twice. Once when I was 6 b/c my button from my jacket was metal An when I was 10. The metal detector that you walk through literally didn’t work for anybody.
Didn’t work for anybody? Does that mean they were pulling everyone over?
Just gone through Tel Aviv airport and had the much desired level 5. My 3 friends all got level 2. Think it may have been when the guy just before check in asked me if I’d enjoyed Israel I said I had apart from the weather. That’s the only thing I can think. Before I got into the airport I was stopped when I was getting out the taxi & questioned, again my 3 friends wasn’t. After check in I went though and was shown to a different lane to my friends. Luckily it wasn’t to busy and after all of my items were swabbed I was through to immigration where I could use my bio metric passport so was though in no time. All in all wasn’t too bad. Hasn’t put me off from visiting Israel again – after all it’s for our safety.
Yes, it is all for our safety. And it’s hard to argue that it doesn’t work, as it certainly seems to. But the question is, does it go to far to get to that point? There have been many reports of ethnic profiling (and that isn’t just limited to Israel…look at the whole “Stop and Frisk” policy the NYPD had going in New York City for a while…). Thanks for sharing your story though. Curious as to why you got flagged but none of your friends did. What’s your national origin? And had you been to any Muslim countries or to the Palestinian territories before?
Man Israel is like the last nation on earth id ever want to visit. Allot of people tell me that Iran is the last country they would want to visit. My advice is just go to every Arab/Muslim nation in the world and then get a brand new passport if you ever wanted to visit Israel and you won’t get hassled
You think that questioning is bad in Tel Aviv airport. I come from Australia and people like to screw around with me just for wanting to go overseas. Australian customs and Immigration are a pack of cunts because they make Australia a paranoid state. I have made various complaints to Australian Customs and I have told them Ill leave Australia and never come back. I find it stupid that we Australians have to fill out forms to leave our own country.
I get in and out of Heathrow and Schegen Airport in 3 minutes flat. No questioning, no stupid forms to fill out. Free as a bird because I am a citizen of the EU (UK)
I no longer travel on an Australian Passport as id rather wipe my ass with it. Unfortunately I can’t visit Iran as a British Citizen because i would need a tour and i wouldn’t get to visit my Iranian Stoner Friends.
If you want less hassle go to Iran over Israel any day of the week. They will let you in at the border with no bullshit
If i ever wanted to visit Israel Id just take a ferry from Cyprus with a bag of clothing and no electronics. Let see how they react to boat people
Israel is a very complicated place, but it’s a truly fascinating experience to witness first hand just what it’s like (and also to witness first hand what life is like for the Palestinians). Not to mention that it is pretty cool to see all those Biblical sites, regardless of your religious beliefs.
As for Iran, you’re not alone in that boat. Americans too have to to go on a tour, which is a shame as I’ve met some really incredible Iranians while traveling, who were all very warm and friendly (same as I found with the Kurds in Iraqi Kurdistan).
[…] months ago, I was sitting in the terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv, reading a fellow traveler’s account of flying out of Israel. I’d heard horror stories of strip searches and endless lines. I was […]
Haha! Great story, and I love the way you tell it. 🙂 My my hilarious “collision” with Israeli security happened at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, in the mid 80’s. I was living in Israel, as a permanent resident and had visited my parents, brother and sister in the Netherlands, and about to take the plane back home.
At the airport in Amsterdam I stood in line with aforesaid relatives to have my luggage checked in so that we could go and have coffee and a bite together before I’d have to go through.
Well, while we were happily standing and talking there, I suddenly realized that I had forgotten to swap the address labels on my bags, so… without giving it a second thought I did it right then and there, en plain publique, in plain sight of the Israeli security guys. They didn’t give any sign whatsoever that they’d noticed suspicious behavior, until… it was my turn… My relatives had to stay back of course and wait for me. It was a long wait. They took me aside with my luggage, started an interrogation from here to eternity and back, all in Hebrew of course, and started to go through my luggage.
At one point an Israeli acquaintance of mine appeared on the scene, someone with the highest security clearance in Israel (don’t ask…) and he walked up to the people who were handling me, and said, “I know this lady very well. Believe me when I tell you that she’s absolutely kosher and good to go!” Hehe. It didn’t help. He got told off, and the saga continued. Until… they opened the bag that contained the “goodies” aka Limburger cheese which was wrapped and re-wrapped and re-re-re-wrapped and still stank up to high heaven! And that broke the ice. A few more questions and giggles about the cheese and its gruesome smell, bags closed, and I was good to go.
Luckily my parents, bro and sis, who had witnessed all this from a distance were sooo cool about it, since they were very experienced travelers to Israel themselves.
Whenever we see Limburger cheese we still laugh about this story.
But, in all honesty, I have never ever felt unsafe when traveling to and from Israel… 🙂
Hahaha that is a funny story! Food breaks the ice just about anywhere, doesn’t it? Interesting that Israeli security checked your luggage in Amsterdam. That was not my experience when I flew to Israel (started in NYC and connected in Kiev of all places). Were you flying El Al or something?
I do agree. I never felt unsafe. And I think their system is considerably more effective than the TSA here in the U.S. But to get to that level of safety, what have we given up?
The wife and I are in our late 50’s and we had been in Israel for several weeks visiting friends and touring. We breezed through the interviews, checked our luggage and was at the xray station for our carryons. In Tel Aviv, I had bought a small kitchen knife to eat with in our hotel. On leaving the hotel for further travelling, I put it in the bottom of my carryon bag and forgot about it. The lady operating the xray machine noticed it and another lady asked if I had anything sharp in my bag. I had forgotten about the knife and said no. she asked again, are you sure? Again, no. She then emptied it and found the knife. I was so shocked all I could say was “you can keep it”. ha ha. I repacked my bag and they let us go on to the gate. She kept the knife. Moral of the story: be an old couple with bad memory.
As I was reading this I got to the knife and thought, “oh no!” Glad it didn’t turn out to be much of a problem, though I suppose the fact that you’re a bit older probably had something to do with that.
I brought a handheld wideband scanning radio, that I had altered to include all frequencies from HF through digital mobile phone frequencies. I have been an amateur radio hobbyist for over over 50 years. Getting into Israel, no one even checked it, either in the US or on arrival. I thought that a bit odd, but went with it. On The way back, I threw it into my checked luggage, and turned it over at the airport. When I got to JFK, my luggage was missing. ElAl said they would find it and get it to me. They must have taken that radio and studied it extensively, as it took weeks to get my luggage back and when I did, the radio never worked properly again.
If I had put it in my carry on, I probably would have missed the flight and spent days explaining why I had the radio and what the radio was for. My lesson was learned and have never again taken international trips with equipment that might cause suspicion.
Do I fault Israel for their security? Not at all. I wish the US would use their very thoughtful methods and procedures. I do not feel as secure with the TSA protecting me. Over the past 15 years of traveling, the TSA have never even questioned my radios, or took any notice of them.
I found Israeli security to be quite lax on the way in. They’re quite strict on the way out and I can see why. I’m kinda surprised that nobody questioned your radios before, though not surprised that the TSA is so ineffective at what they do. All it takes is traveling to other countries to understand that the TSA pales in comparison to the more efficient procedures found abroad. As for El Al, that’s kind of interesting that they would rather have the bag fly without you! I can’t say I’ve heard of that happening before!
[…] months ago, we was sitting in a depot during Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv, reading a associate traveler’s account of drifting out of Israel. I’d listened fear stories of frame searches and unconstrained […]
Interesting to read the comment here, I was 3 weeks ago in Israel and had the pleasure to leave on level 6 with a german passpot – the story began with my friends who met random palestinian people in a club in berlin and decided to visit them- since I always wanted to visit Israel I joined them during the last days of their visit. on my way into israel was zero security i flew in from berlin via istanbul and the screening was like in any flight within the EU minimal standard- 5 minutes in ben gurion, thats it- we had the nicest short trip across diffent cities,beaches,nature and of couse been to Jerusalem and on the way back to Tel Aviv we were driving via Ramallah. I was travelling with a different nationalities of friends and we stayed at house of people that i didnt know before very friendly families- but I didnt know any full names or any further details-
at the interview in ben gurion of the people i travelled with showed a lighter to the guards and said my friend molly gave me this, they got into details directly and the friend said: oh no its not a girl he is also called mahmut thats just a nick name he goes by different names- i didnt know about that at all and we got into the most serious search i have ever experienced- they touched every single item, every coin, every button, every possible thing was single screened for traces of any substances-
I was twice in the body scanner with waiting while the whole staff stared at me like I was a terrorist stupid enough to enter their machinery- and phone calls were made all hectical and in hebrew, i had really no idea what they were about- and i had to go to a room so they could scan the inside ! of my pants- i told them that this is the strongest possible seach one can ever think of and the guard had to admit it-
then a man introduced himself as the head of the airport security team and has asked again over and over why I came there, if i was asked to carry something for somebody, my job, my purpose of visit, luggage over and over- and on top why I give him the impession that I am nervous! – by that time it was past boarding time to our flight out. by that point I wasnt sure if they would now look into the photos I took or anything – the interview became even more strict and personal and I just when thought ok now they let you miss the flight the security chief officer decided to let me go with the others- ( anUS-American, and New Zealanders btw.)
I had the most positive Impession about all people I met in Israel either jewish or arab they were all fantastic people to us, the country impessed me a lot and I was very i glad I finally went there – but this airport really ruined the end of the jouney- I am not sure if I want to go anytime soon since I think I have a record now to be always hardcore level 6
Wow, I’d heard that level 6 existed but never quite heard from anyone who had been through that experience! Now, I will say that I’ve heard that people with German passports frequently get additional suspicion, cuz, you know, World War II. While I certainly don’t advocate lying, it wasn’t wise of your friend to mention that the person’s name was actually Mahmut. I would be willing to bet that was what got you into hot water right there. How in the world do they scan the inside of your pants??
And yes, I agree, the security apparatus is very off putting, but it’s not reflective of the people as a whole. There are amazingly friendly people in every corner of the world and people often seem to overlook that fact.
yes my barcode starts with a 6, well it was my mistake i shouldnt have travelled with dumb People who i barely knew across such a critical border. to be honest i had no idea about that stressful Exit. i thought it would all make sense and the entry. and the whole world war II Thing come on I am 36 and in no relation to that at all. they had a station with tables where they took every single item that i carried and they did hold a scanner to it. the scanner Looks for traces of substances. and then i after the Body scanner I had to go to a small dressing room with a curtain and drop my Pants so they could scan the inside of it, twice. thats was very uncortable and it made me angry- as if you were so insane to carry any harmful substance into this top Level security Airport. it was extreme, and I am affraid they will do it everytime now. does anybody had a 5 and the next time lower??
Yes, I realize that most Germans who would visit Israel today probably had absolutely nothing to do with WW II (and probably weren’t even born yet), but grudges die hard, especially in the Middle East (land of “well the land was mine before it was yours”). And yes I too find it somewhat odd that they don’t care so much when you enter the country, just when you leave. On the upside, you were able to take your carry on onto the plane! I’ve heard stories of people being forced to check everything except for their wallets and passports! So consider yourself lucky… 😛
That whole “scanning your pants” thing sounds really aggravating! I would be pretty upset too! And unfortunately, I can’t say I’ve heard stories from anyone about getting a lower number the next time. I’m not sure if you end up in some database or something (probably, thinking about how organized Israel is about all this stuff). But if you fly out of Israel again, let me know what happens!
I had a German girlfriend who used to come here 3-4 times a year and many German friends. No one ever experienced these horrible searches. Some had more questioning or a better scan, but not this. Germans don’t get treated differently from other Europeans, unless there’s a suspicion that they are associated with a radical leftist group (and then, there’s always fear that they’ll try something or that someone planted something on them).
Hello, is the security process the same if you land in Tel Aviv only for a connecting flight? I’m concerned now there may not be enough time to go through this complicated security process! I think we’ve allowed only for 1.5 hrs layover.
I don’t know, sorry! Are you connecting to the same airline? If so, they’ll probably make some accommodations for you. Security processes around the world are rarely exactly the same for connecting flights, as you’ve already been though security elsewhere. You’ll have to let me know how it goes! Good luck!
How was your experience? I’m also catching a connecting flight from Israel to New York and I’m a little nervous going through the check-in process even though I was only in Israel last month. Did you have to go from baggage claim to check-in? If so, was it easy to find your way from bc to check-in?
Hi, I am now in Israel and considering to visit Bethlehem from Jerusalem with the taxi or using 231 bus. Will be my (EU) passport scanned at the Jerusalem checkpoint on the way back? Will it matter something in the Gurion Airport when will be leaving the Israel? I suppose airport security will have the info I crossed the checkpoint from west bank? How much time I should add to pass the control to catch my flight?
Or simply I should rather forget the idea of visiting the Bethlehem?
I am ordinary tourist, first time in Israel, with no stamps from arabic countries and with valid american visas.
My passport was never scanned in any of the times I went through the checkpoint to the West Bank. Not sure if times have changed since then. However, I would not let fear of additional security screening stop you from visiting Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank. DO visit Bethlehem, as it’s a fascinating place to visit (more on that here: http://www.aaronswwadventures.com/2012/04/travesty-christmas-eve-in-bethlehem-the-good/).
I was advised by my hotel in Tel Aviv to not volunteer to airport security that I’d been to the West Bank. If they ask, obviously you should be honest though they never asked for me, which is probably just as well since I raised red flags anyways (presumably thanks to my visits to Egypt and Jordan as well). You should allow no less than 3 hours before your flight. Ask at your hotel before leaving for the airport what they suggest. Enjoy Bethlehem!
Thnx for your advice. Following the advice from the webpage I past thorough the Ben Gurion airpot and would like to share my experience.
I visited Bethlehem (walking thorough the Checkpoint 300 and using Palestinian TAXI) and spent a beautiful day there – that was the main issue I was afraid when leaving Israel via Ben Gurion. Our passports were not scanned at the Checkpoint, we showed it only via glass wall.
Nowadays is seems everything has changed (July 2015). Compared to other airport security checks at the Gurion there is only one additional (initial) control. I think it is the most important control as the controller (young women) decides which bar code you will be marked for the next following procedures. We were lucky. We obtained bar code started with 2 (together with my wife and her mom). She asked us only 4 questions:
1. Who packed my luggage?
2. Where was my luggage after it was packed?
3. If I got a gift from somebody?
4. If I have anything in my luggage which can be used as a weapon?
After these 4 questions we got our bar code and will be able to drop it at our Airport company chain (check-in counter). Then followed only standard procedures as it is common at the most European/World airports.
Security control of our handbags (scanned), passport control with no additional questions about places we stayed or visited and we could leave the country. It whole took about 2 ours, but the only reason was so many people in front of each counters (check-in, security and passport control).
We found out at home our checked luggage was not even opened – it seems it was only scanned. After extraordinary days spent in Israel we also brought very nice souvenirs without any problems (food, olive oils, rocks and salt from Dead Sea and Bethlehem and other stuff). Really enjoyed the Israel!
Glad to hear everything went well! Yes, I’m aware that the procedure has changed a bit and they shifted going through people’s checked luggage to a “behind-the-scenes” thing, as is the case at most other airports. From the sound of other recent comments though, if you’re not lucky enough to get a 2, then things still get interesting. I would imagine there were no additional questions as your story was pretty straightforward. Plenty of tourists visit Bethlehem (did you see the graffiti on the back of the security wall? That was very cool). It’s when things aren’t so straight forward that additional questions came in. My story was not so straightforward. I came with a group and then stayed after. I was also a single male traveling alone, which raisers more red flags than a family.
Glad you enjoyed Israel though! It’s a cool, albeit kind of strange place. And floating in the Dead Sea is such a memorable experience, as is making it to Jerusalem’s Old City for the first time.
I read your post last night before I left for my flight this morning. At the time I found it both hilarious and a little terrifying, but assumed I wouldn’t have any issues. Little did I know that all 100 pounds, five feet of me would also be labeled a level five. I am so glad I read this, so I knew what to expect.
Hahahahahaha…dare I ask why you were ended up with a 5? Glad you found my story hilarious, terrifying and useful!
I’d assume its because I was traveling alone, didn’t speak Hebrew, didn’t have family in the country, wasn’t Jewish, was there studying Arabic, and had previously lived in Morocco and was still in contact with people there. So I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised.
Um yes…studying Arabic and a history of living in Morocco. That’ll do it! I met a fellow American traveler on a bus to Eilat who was teaching English in Iraqi Kurdistan (he’s the reason I ended up visiting). Flying from Iraq, he could only fly into Amman and cross into the West Bank. But since he had an Iraqi visa in his passport, it took him 8 hours just to get into the country!
Hmmmm…well, I wish i’d encountered THIS blog earlier. Just managed to (finally) get out of Ben Gurion. Noticed the yellow barcode, didn’t know that it was labelling me as a threat, just thought it was some kind of management system. I am a single 40ish year old male and I look grumpy but I don’t see what else could have started it all. Anyways…interrogation supreme, every question imaginable, questions within questions….
THEN….they tell me they have to take my laptop from me (they already had it for the last hour scanning it , opening the battery, asking my to open files) as in take it and (if I’m lucky) they will send it home in a box, which they wrapped in front of me vigourasly. I asked if my computer had been compromissed, if something was wrong with it, ect. and all they told me is that there was a “security” issue with it. what does THAT mean? When I finally got through and went up to passport control (up until this point I’d been totally understanding, yes Israel needs to do security, so whatevs, I get my laptop mailed to me) the fat little twerp at passport control takes my passport, not once looking at me, joking in Hebrew with his fellow female passport officer, then slaps it down in front of me and says obnoxiously “go”, to which I hear his female counterpart pipe in a high pitched voice sarcastically “thank you, DON’T come again” and they both laugh as I leave. Seriously? Really?
They shipped your laptop to you? My goodness what did you do?? Did your barcode start with a 6? Had you visited various Muslim countries or something?
And yes, I’ve heard quite a bit about the fact that single males are considered to be a higher risk so that fact alone probably didn’t help you.
Wow that’s very rude and unprofessional of them! I too had an encounter that left a sour taste in my mouth. I crossed from Jordan into the West Bank via the King Hussein Bridge where the 18 year old running the baggage scanner at the Israeli Immigration Hall took my passport and daypack away to a back room for like 20 minutes. Finally they wheel out a cart full of all these peoples luggage and dump them in the middle of the floor. Then a woman comes out with a huge stack of passports and just stands there sipping her coffee for 5 minutes before she started calling out names! This Palestinian woman turned to me and was like “they’re always like this…”
I’m from Germany and I visit Israel 3 times, I got stamps from the USA and Kazakhstan in my Passport.
I never have any bad experience with the security there, they were always friendly and nothing special happens, I had worser experiences in german airports!
As someone wrote there are “special” treatments for german, this is bullshit, sorry but that is not true.
I am reading there are many set backs in getting through security at the airport to leave the country. What happens when you enter the country going though the airport security? Are there interviews or checkpoints?
I’ve traveled all over the world and I can’t say that I’ve ever been screened upon arrival to a country. Israel is no different in this regard unless you arrive by land from Jordan or Egypt. Arriving at the airport though there are no interviews or checkpoints, but immigration officers will question you, as they do everywhere in the world. You may be scrutinized, particularly if you hail from or have visited a Muslim country and this scrutiny can be particularly in depth from what I’ve heard. If this doesn’t apply to you, you’re likely to have the same experience you’d have entering any other country.
After reading your story and all the comments on this page I was quite a bit concerned when leaving Israel via Ben Gurion last weekend. I’m male, in my late forties, travelling alone, I did wear a T-shirt and trekking trousers in a colour that could go as camouflage and I am German. So pretty much one of the most problematic constellations.
Nevertheless, going through Ben Gurion was pretty straight forward. I arrived via train and had my luggage (both pieces) scanned when entering the train station. An Ben Gurion there were no additional controls.
As I only had an e-ticket and did check in on-line without being able to print the document, I had to print the boarding pass on one of the terminals.Then a guy sent me to a waiting line for the check-in. Just before going to the check-in counter I was given ‘the interview’: How long have you been in Israel,? What did you do? Where did you go? Who did pack you luggage? Did anyone give you something to transport/as a gift? Did you travel alone? Is there anything sharp in your luggage? (I mentioned two small pocket knifes – no reaction) Are there any weapons?
And then I got a barcode sticker in my passport starting with …. wait for it …. the number … no, not 5 or 6, but …2.
After checking-in I was told that the luggage system can’t handle backpacks due to the straps hanging of it and I had to take my backpack to a special station were the backpack was X-rayed and then I had to put it on a trolley.
I can’t say if my backpack was opened and searched after that. Everything was at the place I packed it. After the experience of a domestic flight, where they wanted to see every little piece with electronics in it, I packed all that stuff in a separate bag on to the top of by backpack. One of the LED flash lights (torches) was switched on, but that could have happened during baggage handling.
The personal security check on the way to the gate was the typical international standard (if maybe with a tad more of a no-nonsense attitude). Take laptop out, empty your pockets, take off your jacket (not that I did wear one) and go through the portal.
Emigration was handled totally non personal. If you have a biometric passport, you stand if front of a camera, put the passport on a scanner field and after some seconds you get a small reddish piece of paper saying that this is a substitute for the exit stamp in your passport.
So even if you have some of the ‘trouble features’ don’t worry to much about leaving through Ben Gurion. Apart from the short delay due to the queue at the gate security check, going through Ben Gurion Airport was just like any other airport. Of course, your mileage may vary.
Btw. immigration was just as straight forward. I showed my passport and was asked some questions: First time in Israel? How long will you stay? Do you travel alone? (single travellers seem to be suspicious) Where do you plan to go? Then I got a blueish piece of paper in lieu of a passport stamp allowing me to stay for 90 days.
Glad to hear you had a very normal experience! We don’t get many stories about that around here, but surely plenty of people have totally normal security experiences.
ARE YOU ALL GOT HOME SAFE? HERE YOU GO, you got the answer? ISRAEL HAS THE BEST SECURITY, it just FACT. Move on and take it easy, you might sometimes wander what the hell with all the questions but I rether have this then get blown of the sky.
I will say that the level of security is far above what we have in the U.S., but all that comes at a cost. The question everyone must consider is, how much are we willing to give up in the name of security?
If someone asks me for my laptop/phone password and I’m leaving the country I might have to “volunteer it” so they don’t throw me in jail. But if I’m entering the country I prefer to be sent back home. What they do is just plain rude. I have to go there on work and if the experience is bad it will be the first and the last.
You’re liable to face it more while leaving the country, so good luck trying to leave! I understand its frustrating, but put yourself in their shoes…
When my husband and I were leaving Israel (gay couple- non Jewish) after the first machine I was sent to check my bag in. Richard was sent to the search tables. About an hour later he was directed to the check in counter. I was no longer there as you can’t loiter waiting for your party to catch up with you. He went to the side looking for me where the exit from the check in area is. A guard was standing there and Richard was the only one near him. When Richards foot touched the white line at the post, the guard ordered hi. To return to the start of the line and go through the ENTIRE search over again even though he was standing two feet in front of the guy for the entire 5 seconds. Fortunately, they guy at passport check recognized him and asked why he was back. When Richard explained what happened, they guy shook his head and said, “come on” and let him to baggage check-in without further searches. Thank G-d for small favours and maybe a little gay brother sympathy.
Haha lucky for Richard! Just goes to show how strict rules can be. Glad it all worked out ok though!
I have been to Isreal twice. For the first time I got 2. For the second time: 6 (!!!) …. and you can only imagine what happened after that (the most horrible experience in my life). And I still do not understand what triggered that.
I’m female, 40+, European (with blond hair, blue eyes), I travel a lot all over the world (both for business & pleasure), I have had never ever any issue with visas / immigration / security, I wear classic clothes .
Both in case 1 & 2 I spent a week in Isreal (private visits).
Wow! That must’ve been quite an experience! The TSA in the U.S. always randomly selects people for additional screening. I’d imagine security in Israel probably does something similar.
Yeah. It has been an “experience “(especially the personal check in a separate room… Never felt so humiliated in my life. Needless to say that I am not used to sitting naked and waiting for officers to come back with my clothes. I am also not used to somebody touching me with latex gloves and similar things :(.
But ok… If this makes the airport more secure…
Yowza! Yeah that would also leave a really bad taste in my mouth… Have your travels taken you to any Muslim-majority countries?
Yes – I have been to Malaysia and Oman. But this constitues just a small % of all my travels – I have visited ~70 counties or so in my life and my passport was full of other visas/ stemps at that time (including the US, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, China, India, Mexico, Curacao etc. etc.).
So strange. Maybe Oman set it off (isn’t it spectacularly beautiful)? Maybe not… I’m a bit scared to visit again as since my travels in Israel, I’ve hit up quite a few Muslim countries… Malaysia, Indonesia, Turkey, UAE, Oman, Kuwait and Iraq. And Iran is high on my list… I can only imagine what a future experience dealing with Israeli security will be like!
I do not understand why they take your cothes and don’t give you something to cover your body while they search, something like hospital patient gown. Unless humiliation is their modus operandi.
My wife and I are planning on entering Israel via the Sheikh Hussein Crossing in March. We plan on spending approx 5 weeks in Israel but while there we want to travel down to Eilat and go to Petra crossing over the Eilat border crossing into Petra. We would then return to Eilat after visiting Petra and spend another couple of weeks in Israel before leaving Israel once again at the Sheikh Hussein Crossing.
I’ve been told that when crossing over by land from Jordan to Israel and vice versa you must always enter and exit thru the same crossing.
If we initially enter Israel via the Sheikh Hussein crossing to start our trip and then part way thru go to Petra via the Eilat crossing will we be allowed to cross at the Eilat crossing ?
Presumably, you’re referring to the former Aqaba Special Economic Zone (ASEZ) visa, which was offered free to all visitors entering Jordan via the Eilat/Aqaba crossing. This is what I ended up with, and, while on paper it required that you exit via the same crossing, it seems this was rarely enforced. I entered using this and exited via the Allenby crossing. It seems like Jordan may have done away with these with the start of the new year for people crossing by land, though. It’s a bit unclear (details here).
Speaking of that Allenby crossing, that’s where things get real complicated, as exiting Jordan via that way does NOT count as having used an entry on your visa, provided you re-enter via the same crossing within a reasonable amount of time (last I heard that was two weeks). The reason for this is because Jordan does not recognize the West Bank as part of Israel so you aren’t “leaving,” per say, at least in their eyes. Fortunately for you, you aren’t using this crossing, which will simplify your life quite a bit.
The plan you’re describing would use 3 entries on your visa, which requires an expensive multiple entry visa (120 JD, or US$169). But other than that you shouldn’t have any problems. Be mindful of the fact that both Jordan and Israel charge departure tax while crossing by land and that can also add up.
Thanks for the update Aaron. I found the Jordan Tourism Board website a bit difficult to follow though.
We are Australians and will be coming from Australia and landing at Amman airport, driving to and crossing over at the Bet Shean/Sheik Hussein crossing. (I presume this counts as one entry and one exit?)
Then we’ll spend a couple of weeks touring around Israel, drive down to Eilat where we join our Israeli tour to Petra, crossing over at the Eilat crossing. We’ll spend probably 2 nights and then return to Israel via the same crossing. (Does this count as another entry and exit?)
Does the fact that we’re part of a tour group originating in Israel affect anything? Would a longer or shorter stay in Petra affect anything either?
After returning to Eilat we would then spend another couple of weeks in Israel and then exit the last time via the Bet Shean/Sheik Hussein crossing, catch a taxi to Amman airport and fly back to Australia. I presume this counts as another entry and exit?)
Yes, the tour group may change your visa needs for the Petra portion of your trip. You should contact your tour operator to see if you need a Jordanian visa for the tour. If they tell you that you do not, then you would only need a double entry visa, attainable at Amman airport when you arrive. You use one entry that first time when you exit to Israel. Assuming your tour group exempts you from visa requirements (which it may, given the new rules), the 2-day trip to Petra is covered. You’d need the second entry for your return to Jordan.
Instead of getting a multiple entry visa, which is twice the price of a double entry, you could get a double entry upon arrival in Amman and use the second entry for Petra if needed. If not, then you could use it to re-enter Jordan via Sheikh Hussein. Though if the entry IS used for Petra, you could buy another single entry when you re-enter Jordan for your flight back to Australia. This is actually cheaper than buying a multiple entry (100 JD instead of 120 JD).
So interesting reading everyone’s stories!
My question: I will be traveling alone to Israel at the end of March. I’m a mid forties, married blond woman, and I look every bit the American that I am. Maybe I could pass for German if someone’s not paying close attention. I usually only bring carry on luggage. Anyone have experience that would indicate the lack of luggage could arouse suspicion? Thanks.
Thanks for posting these stories–so interesting and helpful.
I’m now super intrigued as to what will happen to us for our upcoming trip. I’m traveling there on vacation with my wife and FIVE kids (ages 11, 9, 5, 3 and 1). We’re from the US and pretty much look the part. My wife did a semester at the BYU school in Jerusalem just before we were married and has since wanted to return with me.
I’m guessing we’ll be a bit of an oddity (traveling that far with SO many kids for Spring Break), but hoping not one that would raise any security concerns. Our flight back (via Warsaw) is really early in the morning and would like to sleep as much as possible. Has anyone noticed if families with children get treated any differently?
It drives me crazy in the US when one of us gets randomly selected for additional security– like a mom traveling with a couple kids and a baby is ANY security threat.
Thanks for any input you can provide.
I highly doubt you would raise any suspicions, but you never know! Check with your hotel but you should budget no less than 3 hours at the airport. I too had an early morning flight. Think I went to the airport at 4am or something.
Thanks for the reply and info. I’ll let you know how it went– hopefully it’ll be an uneventful story.
Hi – great post! I’m travelling to Israel on my own in 2 weeks time for the first time to meet up with friends in Tel Aviv and then go to the western wall in Jerusalem. I’m going for a weekend break.
I’m travelling on a British passport, it’s got the biometric chip and I have stamps from Turkey, Tanzania and Kenya (I have family there and was visiting them 2 years ago). I’m feeling a bit nervous as I also have an implant in my left arm, contraceptive, which I have an official card for from the pharma company that issues them. Do you think I’ll be picked up on these factors? I’m also of Indian heritage and feel nervous about Israeli security.
That Turkey stamp may get you some extra screening. And I’m actually in Tanzania (Zanzibar) at the moment! Just renege to stay calm, keep your wits about you, be honest (to the extent that it doesn’t hurt you) and don’t be nervous. That will only set off more flags.
I am curious, when you answered the question:
“So your bag hasn’t left your sight?
You answered a negative to his question.
So your bag has left your sight – No
So your bag as not left you sight – Yes
I leading or misleading question?
I suppose you’re grammatically correct, though I noted the interview from memory so no guarantees that it is verbatim. And even if it is, I can’t fathom that this question got me flagged. In the heat of the moment, “no” is a perfectly reasonable answer. May not be grammatically correct, but hey…we don’t always speak in a grammatically correct fashion.
These are horrible stories, especially the ones from Maria, Nathan and Dan, the German travellers. Having checked contact lists in Android phone (Parrhestiastes), had stolen data (Jesper), had stolen baggage (Stela), had damaged suitcases (Mark), had purposely damaged laptop (Christian), being mocked by the young female security personnel (Jared), and so on. If this was done to Israeli citizens in other countries, they security personnel and even the country would be marked as anti-Semitic very very soon. I visited Israel/Palestine 3 weeks ago through the Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. I was a solo, white, male traveller, 31 years old, travelled on a Europeans union- passport. When leaving the country on the airport my small suitcase (hand luggage) was marked with a yellow tag with a barcode and became a subject to thorough search. A young security guy swabbed almost all items one by one with the sticks. I had a stamp from Turkey in my passport (holiday in 2015). Second thing which could have raised the red flag were postcards I bought in Bethlehem (part of the West Bank). Than I have been interrogated by a male security guy for about 20 minutes. In comparison to all those people I consider myself to by lucky. Basically everyone can be snagged by the guards on the airport, than harassed, intimidated and abused. They have turned humiliation and degradation of people into a fine art – “Welcome to Israel! Now strip down for your cavity search…Ok, you’re “clean.” Now open your computer so we can scour your e-mail and internet activity and snicker and sneer at you for what we find.
Indeed. These people sound like utter shits. I’m certainly never going to give my tourist dollars to such a backward craphole.
Hi Aaron, thanks so much for this helpful information. I’m an American Ph.D. student who is half white and half Pakistani and also Muslim. I’m planning to go to Jerusalem via Amman in a week and then will be flying back to the U.S. after one more week. I’m guessing I will have a difficult trip, not least because I am currently in Lebanon and have been here for 6 weeks doing dissertation research on the issue of the Arab-Israeli Conflict in the US. I’ve been doing research at American University of Beirut and am planning to have all my research documents synced online via dropbox and then remove them from my computer so the Israeli security at least doesn’t see a whole lot of historical documents on political matters on my computer.
I applied for a secondary U.S. passport and got it. I used my regular passport to fly to Beirut from the U.S. and will use my new second passport to fly from Beirut to Amman. From Amman I will cross the King Hussein Bridge to enter Jerusalem. After a week in Jerusalem, I will fly back to New York via Tel Aviv Airport. I know I’m going to have a difficult time for a variety of reasons, because of my ethnic background, religion, research, and travel. I’m trying to decide whether to be open about having been in Lebanon for the past month and a half before coming to Israel. Since I have my second passport, they don’t technically have to know I was in Lebanon but I’m worried that they’ll find my first passport and see it. Also, all I did in Lebanon was some boring archival research at American University of Beirut and toured a few tourist sites! What do you think, should I be honest about having been in Lebanon even though my second passport won’t reflect that? Should I try to hide my original passport? My OG passport also has a visa for UAE and Jordan from a few years back. To make matters worse, I used to wear a headscarf in my old passport, though my second passport doesnt have a headscarf and I no longer wear it because I don’t believe in it religiously anymore. But the fact that I used to wear hijab still might be a problem.
I was planning to do some archival research at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem but I don’t know if that’s something I should mention when I cross the border or am at the Tel Aviv Airport since that might make them more suspicious of me? So I’m wondering if I should just say I only visited Jerusalem for tourism? Gah, it’s hard to know what will make the Israelis more at ease with me. Anyway, I would appreciate your thoughts!
There are a couple issues with this plan, the first of which is that you can’t enter Lebanon on one passport and leave on another. What you can do, though, is use the second passport upon entrance to Jordan. Then, when you cross the King Hussein Bridge into the West Bank, you’ll get no Jordanian exit stamp as Jordan does not recognize the West Bank as being part of Israel.
Generally, a second passport is useful if you’ve BEEN to Israel and want to then visit Muslim countries that would otherwise refuse you entry. I’ve not heard of anyone under these circumstances. I take it you’re flying back to the U.S. from TLV? One option would be to stash your original passport in a safety deposit box in Amman if you could later pick it up again, but it seems like you can’t.
You should never lie to security officials, but be selective about what you tell them. If you must bring your original passport with you, stash it somewhere on yourself that would be a logical place to carry such a thing, like pouch under your clothes. They’ll certainly find it in your bag. Don’t bring it up unless you are asked. And if you are asked what you are doing in Israel on either end, I wouldn’t mention the research as it’s such a hot button issue. Maybe it’s safest to say that you wanted to visit Jerusalem and leave it at that.
Were you born in the U.S.? If so, you probably don’t have too much to worry about. But be prepared for some hefty questioning both on entrance and exit. A Korean-American friend I met in Israel had an Iraqi residency visa in his passport and reported that he spent 8 hours at the King Hussein Bridge. I highly doubt you’ll have those sorts of issues, but hey, you never know!
Oh yes, I meant to say I would enter Jordan with the second passport but of course use my original one when leaving the Lebanese airport. The more I’m thinking about it, the more I realize I should be open about having been to Lebanon (though I won’t volunteer the info).
I will still use my second passport for Jordan/Israel because I would like to travel to Pakistan in the next couple of years, but I guess it’s not an issue if they find my original passport. I can’t leave it in Amman since I am flying back to the U.S. from Tel Aviv.
Yes, I was born in the U.S. and actually haven’t been to Pakistan as all my family moved to America. I’m sure I can look forward to a long wait at King Hussein Bridge and Ben Gurion but I’ll just suck it up and go through with it. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Yes you should never lie to any security or immigration officials. That will only get you in trouble. Be honest, but be selective about what information you volunteer. Also, Israel no longer stamps passports, so it shouldn’t be a concern about using one passport for Israel as well. By exiting Jordan via the King Hussein Bridge you won’t get a Jordanian exit stamp (which may look suspicious to Pakistani authorities…even if you don’t have Israeli stamps there are reports that countries that won’t let you in if you’ve been to Israel can figure out you’ve been based on your stamps for neighboring countries. The only reason you wouldn’t have a Jordanian exit stamp is by heading to the West Bank, but that also assumes that Pakistan knows this).
Well, maybe I was just lucky, but I’ve just been to Israel and back and found it all very civilised, but time-consuming. I am American with Dutch residency card, no other Middle East trips in the passport. I was just asked the basic questions you usually get asked (did you pack your bags yourself, leave our bags unattended, etc), very politely – and during the scanning, I noticed how no one was yelling at us (“laptops out of the bags!!” No liquids!!”) like they do at other airports, particularly in the US. I get treated worse going back to the US when I visit my Mom!! The one weird thing is we were told to go to Terminal 3 – but from there, had to take a shuttle to Terminal 1- go through security, then get a shuttle back to Terminal 3! (So maybe the Terminal 1 security is not as intense?)
I checked my barcode and got a 2, which is pretty good after reading people getting 5s and 6s. I wonder, though, what made me a 2 instead of a 1 (maybe Israelis are 1s?).
I’ll add I really loved Tel Aviv and it’s one of my favourite cities now, so don’t let the security deter you from going. Once I was there, I’ve never felt so safe in my life (except when crossing the road).
I should add that everyone I talked to as part of security at Ben Gurion was very cordial, not like the TSA agents who prefer to yell out instructions.
Yes, Israelis are 1’s. And I do agree. Tel Aviv is a really wonderful city. Travel is full of hassles and I don’t think fears about what security one will face should stop anyone from going anywhere!
Thanks for sharing your experience! We don’t get many positive stories around here!
How come you say 1’s are for Israeli’s? I got one and am not Israeli…
I didn’t say that ONLY Israelis get 1s. Just that generally, almost all Israelis get 1s, which is how the system was explained to me. Congrats, though, they clearly thought you were absolutely no risk at all!
Found this blog after I left Israel, stories were so interesting.
I’ve been to Israel twice this month, both time for work trips.
First time exiting it took about 90 minutes, I went through the luggage screening process. Xray the bag, then take all the materials out and xray them again, etc.
I’m a Canadian passport holder (born and raised) with Pakistani parents. They didn’t care about that information on the way out, but rather on the way in they found it very interesting.
Now on the 2nd trip my client prepared Mokdan for me, which is like pre-security clearance to leave. That was great. My bar code started with 3, got through exit security in 10 minutes.
However the most interesting part of my exit was when the taxi reaches the first airport checkpoint, and the security lady checked my passport her first two questions were:
I) What is your name? I replied “Omair”
ii) Are you a Muslim?
After my answer of yes we pulled the car over to answer about 5 minutes of question about my work, and then I sent on my way
Glad to hear! How did you manage to get a Mokdan? Through your job? Sounds like a very handy document to have!
Also very interesting to hear that your background didn’t seem to affect things all that much.
May I ask a question please? I am an Eurasian by blood, with Sri Lankan Sinhalese Buddhist ancestry and Portugese Catholic mix. I carry a Western passport. I am a Christian by religion and have full Christian name, and look brown. I want to visit Israel for pilgrimage purpose. How will I be treated? What bar code will humble me get?
There’s no way of predicting what barcode you may get. And plenty of Christian pilgrims visit Israel without issue.
I tried entering Israel; they were very nice at first and then suddenly they morphed into what seemed like rabid dogs. Began asking me all sorts of totally inappropriate questions, such as why at my age I had no children, why I was divorced from my ex-husband, and the quality of our former sex life which led to the divorce. I politely declined to answer those questions citing that they have nothing to do with entry into Israel, then they stuck me with a green sticker and send me on my way back to Frankfurt where I was promised a full return ticket back to the US but left stranded. Their behavior was extreme and has led to all sorts of other problems and issues ever since.
Wow! That’s QUITE an experience! Anything that you can think of that might have caused them to switch on a dime like that?
Wow, interesting blog. I was planning on visiting Israel with my friend (who is from India). I am of Indian origin and have New Zealand, Australian and South African citizenship. I live in Australia, and will be travelling to Israel via South Africa. The plan is to meet up in South Africa and have a 2 week holiday there, before heading off to TLV. We plan to visit Israel in September this year (2016).
A few things though:
1. My friend is of the Bahai faith and he is visiting Israel because of religious reasons, as their main shrine is in Haifa. I am not religious at all and have no plans to travel with him to Haifa. Is this going to be a problem with the Israeli officials?
2. I am in a dilemma as to which passport I should enter Israel with. Should I enter Israel with my South African passport (since we are flying from South Africa)?
3. I have only been to Malaysia once and have an entry and exit stamp in my Australian passport. Is this going to be an issue at TLV?
4. We are flying out of TLV into BKK, where I will take the connecting flight to Melbourne, Australia. Is this also going to be an issue as we are flying into Israel from SA but I will be flying out of Israel to Thailand and onto Australia?
This is my first time visiting Israel and I don’t really know what to expect. The only time I have ever had any contact with an Israeli official was way back in 2003, when I went with my friend (the same person I am travelling with this time as well) to the Israeli embassy in Canberra. A well-built young guy dressed in civilian clothing came out of the embassy (we were made to wait at the gate), and casually questioned us about why we were in Canberra and why we wanted to go into the Israeli embassy (I didn’t, my friend has an Indian passport and needed a visa to Israel as he was going to Haifa – he had all the relevant paperwork).
He was let in after lengthy questioning, but they made me stand outside the gate on the other side of the road!
I am excited and nervous, hopefully I will not end up with a ‘5’ or a ‘6’!
Sounds like a fun trip! To answer your questions:
1) No, I don’t think so. And I also don’t think you should necessarily skip Haifa. The Bahai Gardens there are really impressive and it’s a nice town otherwise.
2/3) I visited with Malaysian stamps in my passport and had no issues. That said, you might save yourself a headache by using your South African one, provided you don’t need a visa. But the fact that your onward travel is to Australia, maybe it’s better to stick with that passport.
4) No, people on journeys like that are not all that unusual. Can’t imagine that this would be an issue.
Prior to visiting Israel I had met a lot of Israeli backpackers around the world, and I can’t say I’d had the greatest impression of them, all of whom were traveling right after finishing their military service and before going to university (so they’d be 20 years old or so). I’m happy to report, though, that all the Israeli people I met in Israel were really lovely people. It’s a fascinating place, though I would encourage you to also spend some time in the West Bank. It’s an eye opening experience (I wasn’t asked about this when I left, but I have heard that they tend to ask people on the “exit interview” if they’ve been. Remember, always be honest).
Your experience at the embassy probably had more to do with security procedures than anything else.
Had no hassles. Was just like an another airport. Had Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, China, Qatar, German, Cambodia, and US Visa. No issues
Fascinating. Only real potential red flag is Qatar, but glad to hear you had no issues.
What I think, speaking hebrew and admitting it during the first interview makes everything worse. Of course lying makes everything much more worse, so it’s just the best not to know any hebrew 😛
I’m female, Polish- because I mostly travel to Schengen countries, I have pretty much no stamps in my passport. Have been twice to Israel, this summer I’m going there again.
Both times I got number 5 (however, my first visit was sime time ago, and I think that back then they had alepf-bet system instead of numbers). When I was flying back home for the 2nd time security guy asked me if I know any hebrew- (un)fortunatelly I did and then strange questions started. Where did I learned that? For sure in Poland? He doesn’t think it’s possible to learn hebrew in Poland etc. They also asked several times about my flight numbers – which I usually don’t remember and don’t really care about unless I have a transfer somewhere.
Apart of that point I agree with everything you guys wrote before. I was a young, white, female, solo traveller, wearing casual clothes with backpack. I have some jewish roots, but I’m not jewish myself.
I’m wondering how it;s going to be this time, huh.
Hahaha yes you should never lie to security personnel! That’s really interesting that you got that reaction from knowing Hebrew. It probably would have been easier if you were Jewish yourself and could share that you learned it from your parents or some sort of Hebrew school or something. Gotta wonder if the backpack sets it off too? Good luck with your future travels!
The security model Israel follows is based on profiling passengers and assigning threat levels based on various circumstances (where you have been, your background, your behavior during the initial screening, the answers to your questions, what they might find in your luggage and yes, racial profiling. It is much more effective method than than the TSA uses. Israel security personnel are highly trained, most of them with a background in behavior from the Army. In short, it is nerve wracking, because it’s designed to be. Because if you are planning an attack or something, likely your adrenaline would be flowing on overdrive and these methods are meant to catch that. Ben Gurion airport is the safest in the world, simply because it has to be.
I don’t doubt that it’s more effective than the TSA (that’s not hard), but it does seem like many people feel like it goes a bit overboard. Surely there’s something that strikes the right balance between security and personal dignity.
Hey, great blog.
I just returned from Tel Aviv yesterday and this was my 7th time in the past 11 years and I think i’m done with Israel for the next 11 years! I got a 6 so I guess they must have thought i’m extremely dangerous. Holding a Dutch Passport and living in Berlin, yet born in Tehran, not religious, gay and traveling alone. A part of me wants to understand their caution but some other part of me says it just not right, and being a targeted country doesn’t mean you can give mainly jewish locals a normal treatment and treat everyone else as a potential threat. It makes the whole experience of entering and leaving Israel unpleasant and leaves a very, very bad taste in my mouth. One I can easily do without! So long Israel.
Was this the first time you’ve had issues in 7 visits? I can imagine the fact that you were born in Tehran contributed to this. And I definitely agree. I get that they can organize their security however they please, and people have commented that it’s an effective system. That may be, but, as you say, it’s at the expense of just about everyone else in the world!
Great blog, Aaron.
Any tips for me? I’m an American woman, mid 50s, traveling to Israel in a few months to visit my nephew who is also American and a college student studying in Israel for the year. We plan to travel around the country for a week, then I plan to go overland by myself to Jordan to see Petra, go back to Israel, meet up with my nephew again, and then I’ll fly back to New York alone.
My nephew and I are both Jewish. I’ve never been to a Muslim country and have no stamps on my passport. I’m blonde and blue eyed FWIW. My grandparents were all immigrants to the US from Russia/Poland/Lithuania in the early 20th century.
I’ve been pulled out for special screening a number of times in US airports. I have been told it’s because I’m usually traveling alone and pack very light — like just a small daypack for a 10 day trip.
Will anything about my trip cause me to be viewed suspiciously? Traveling alone? Female? Over 50? Meeting a young man in Israel (even if he is a relative). Packing light? Going to Jordan? What if I decided to go to Egypt instead of Jordan?
Thank you for your help
Traveling alone seems to be a potential sticking point, though I imagine your age will be an asset. Seems solo men have more issues than solo women do. And you’d probably have a much easier time having gone to Jordan rather than having gone to Egypt. That said, don’t let a little scrutiny stop you from visiting the Pyramids. They’re quite the sight to see and it would be a shame to miss them while you’re in that part of the world! Do be mindful though that I’ve heard from some female travelers that they’ve had a rough time in Egypt. I wasn’t a huge fan myself over the huge amount of hassle I got from salespeople in Luxor, but what some of my female friends have described is a whole other level of discomfort. Just something to keep in mind.
I have been to Israel twice this year and in addition to the huge number you get on the sticker, there is now also a Hebrew letter. The first time I saw it, I thought it was the person who gave me the sticker, but I have had the same letter (dalet) twice. Would love to know what the letter means.
Interesting! I wonder if they’ve changed the system.
Hi aaron, its nice to read all these insights and experiences and having me prepared again in coming back to israel! I am a philippine passport holder and currently working as a nanny here in canada but i was working in israel for 7 years! And wants to go on vacation this coming week i wil be with my employers until we reach israel and will have separate ways after that! Do you think any problem with that kind of arrangement? Thank you and have a nice day!
Nah I think you’ll be fine. But who knows, they might have a different opinion of you. Are you working there as a nanny?
I am planning on visiting Jerusalem this December, flying in and out of Ben Gurion, with EasyJet from the UK. I am mid thirties, English origin but in my passport I have visas from Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, 2 x India, 2 x Jordan, 2 x Egypt, UAE, Azerbaijan and Georgia plus a few Eastern Europe. My flight from Luton is at 7am, am I likely to go through stringent security checks there or would it be on arrival? I’m guessing I should allow at least 2 hours for security when leaving as well?
You should leave no less than 3 hours for security on the way out. They seem to be much easier on letting folks in. That said, I have a friend who had an Iraqi residency visa (he was teaching in Iraqi Kurdistan) and had flown to Amman and then entered the Israel via the King Hussein/Allenby Bridge into the West Bank and he reported that it took him 8 hours just to clear immigration there (it took me about an hour). But a residency permit is much different than a tourist visa, so who knows. I’d love to hear if you have any issues getting in though!
traveled out from Ben Gurion several times never been harassed at all security always takes seconds
Consider yourself lucky!
Hey Aaron, thanks for this very detailed account of your experience at TLV. As a first-timer to Israel it’s good to know what to expect and do respect their need to have all these security measures in place. I have a question for you though. We are two females travelling to Egypt, then to Amman and finally cross into Jerusalem via Allenby Bridge. Once in Israel, we plan to fly out of Ben Gurion back to San Francisco. Do you think such an itinerary would cause us to be labeled high risk? In your opinion, would it be easier to go back to Amman and fly back to SF from there? Thanks in advance!
It’s certainly possible, but I wouldn’t sweat it that much. Also, it would certainly be worth your while to spend some time in the West Bank. So while flying out of Amman would certainly save you some hassle, it would also probably cost you more. When you weigh all those things together, flying out TLV really isn’t all that bad (I had quite a time getting over the Allenby bridge myself). Little travel frustrations make great stories after the fact, but don’t let a fear of a little inconvenience stop you from having an experience.
Thanks for this detailed account, Aaron. My husband and I are going to Israel next month. We are taking the El Al flight to Tel Aviv from Bangkok. While there, we plan to cross the border to Jordan to see Petra then return to Israel. We are also staying in Bethlehem for a few days for Christmas. I am already feeling a bit nervous as to what type of security check I will go through. I am currently based in Jakarta, Indonesia for two and a half years now for work assignment. My husband is based in Singapore, but he has been to Indonesia many times to visit me. I hope all goes well. It is our first time in Israel and Jordan and we are looking forward to this trip.
Hope it goes well for you. I too spent Christmas in Bethlehem, though my experience was kind of ruined by rain. More on that here.
i’m planning to visit isreal with my girl friend this March, a short seven days vacation to Jerusalem i am Armenian (armenian name ) born in Baghdad irak immigrated to the Netherlands and recently i have the NL. citizenship and passport with which i’m going to Isreal, i will carry the HOtel booking etc. … but again would it be difficult for me to inter Isreal ?
For most people, entering Israel is not as difficult as leaving it is. You may have issues given where you were born (presumably it states this in your passport?) but I wouldn’t sweat it too much.
After reading the stories on this website i was a bit worried about leaving Israel. On the airport i was picked out of the line by a supervisor and she asked me some questions. Then she asked a friend the same questions.
After that we, also the friends who hasn’t had to answer any question, got a sticker starting with a 3.
Hi Aaron, I must admit these are the most descriptive accounts of how I’m likely to be treated when leaving Tel Aviv – I think it has prepared me well.
Thank you for starting this post and sharing your experience. I’m planning to visit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in March with my two best friends, both whom have visited Tel Aviv on a number of occasions over the last few years (both are white male Europeans – one brit and one Hungarian, in their early 40s). Both haven’t had any issues – as they have only visited Morroco.
Me on the other hand, I am a British born female, in my mid thirties, with a Pakistani descent, and I have recently (December 2016) visited Abu Dhabi (to visit my boyfriend) and Pakistan (to visit family). One of the stories I have heard is that they ask about family that you have visited abroad – ie detailed questions about what they do and names of grandparents etc, whilst I know some information, I certainly don’t have the full low down on my family history – is this something I should research?
Also do they have retinal scanning at their border control – does anyone know, the reason I ask, is more about the fact that I want to be able to go back to Abu Dhabi and Pakistan, I wonder whether simply not stamping my passport would be enough – surely border control systems are now more sophisticated in knowing which countries you have been to – without seeing the stamps on your passport? Just a thought….
Last I heard, Israel stopped stamping passport passports a few years ago. They now give you a piece of paper to keep and return when you exit the country (similar to Hong Kong). So you should be fine in that regard. Just be mindful if you plan on crossing by land to Egypt or Jordan, as they do stamp and some folks have reported issues. Seems that some countries (mainly Syria and Lebanon) recognize that the crossing used means you came from Israel.
You may have a harder time getting in. I can’t say I’ve heard of anyone needing to provide family history (I was constantly asked if I had family in Israel, but that was it). But if you’d feel more comfortable researching a basic family history, I’m sure it couldn’t hurt.
Im planning to go in israel im a Filipino and currently here in Dubai for vacation. is it possible to enter Israel knowing that im here at arab country. Thanks!
Yes it’s definitely possible, though I’m not sure if there are direct flights.
Israeli security guards are uneducated, they think that they are generals and that the passenger is a simple soldier. They are treating passengers like treating cattle, humiliating them. Especially if you fly with El Al, they want to justify the high ticket price by showing off with their profiling methods. I think nobody should fly El Al, unless you want to really be humiliated, Israeli style. By the way, they do the same when you ride by their stupid mono train.
I just went through Tel-Aviv security leaving Israel earlier today, and left with a one. A tip I’ve found useful after asking around and trying it is to answer questions with as much information as possible. When the security asks travelers the seemingly random questions they’re looking for a story, and if the story makes sense, they let the traveler through. This means that answering one or two word answers only hurts, not helps. The security there is not out to get you, they’re there to keep the country safe. It’s best to work with them. By supplying as much information as possible, they are more likely to believe you as you appear more genuine to them.
Great advice! Did you travel beyond Israel during your time there?
This is a great post. I’m going to Israel in a week and I’ve heard from friends that African Americans always get pulled aside for additional interviews and screenings. This has me pretty nervous as I’m traveling alone.
I’m going for a journalism program – it’s a week long affair. From what you’ve heard, would this be looked upon well or not? Considering that I’m a young, black American female journalist. I know you don’t have all the answers but an opinion would help!
Not sure, sorry! I’d love to hear about how your experience went though!
this is an old thread, but since i’m waiting for my bags and was curious and found it while googling, I figured I’d update people on my security process in case it helps other people. I got a “1,” even though I’m not Israeli, though I am Jewish (and look it). Once I got through the interview, I was the only American in my security line, and it was less intrusive than American security lines! FWIW, there were two Muslim families in that line as well.
Anyways, my background is that I’m Jewish, female, mid-20s, was coming back from Taglit but had extended, and had been briefly in the West Bank (hevron tour) but they didn’t ask me about that at all. The questions I got were (that I recall–this isn’t a complete list):
how many bags do you have? do you speak hebrew? did you go to hebrew school? where? how long? how many days a week? which synagogue are you a member of? how frequently do you attend? what do you do on the holidays, and which holidays? what do you do for yom kippur? how long do you fast? what about rosh hashana? what foods does your grandmother make on rosh hashana? [i mentioned “then go to my grandmothers” previously] how do you celebrate passover? do you read the haggadah in hebrew or english? when you attend synagogue, do you sit with your whole family or do you sit with the women? who is the rabbi at your parents’ synagogue? when did you last attend? when did you pack your bag?
The things that helped me, I think, was that I was able to easily/readily give the name of my parents rabbi (all the questions about religion were focused on my parents’ synagogue–which was good, since i’ve been going to hillel/chabad for the last seven years and couldn’t remember any of the rabbis names) and that I was dressed rather frum (knee-length skirt and a sweatshirt). She also liked my answer to “what do you do on YK” (“uh fast and pray?”). So if you are female and Jewish, I suggest doing that!
Otherwise, this serves as proof that you don’t need to be Israeli to get a “1,” you just need to be a single frum-looking Jewish American woman leaving from Birthright who remembers her parents’ rabbis’ name.
Thanks for sharing!
Very insightful blog and getting to read all of your experiences since I am planning on going to Israel. I have Canadian passport but I was born in India to muslim parents and I have a muslim name even though I am now an atheist. My passport has no stamps in it regardless of the fact that I visited Cuba and the USA several times. I will never know what my experience will be until I visit Israel but I was wondering what do you think they will classify me as at Tel-Aviv airport and should I also avoid El Al and fly Air Canada or some other carrier.
El Al has even further enhanced security techniques. If you’re concerned, you may want to stick with Air Canada.
Thank you for your interesting account of your experience at TLV. I’m flying to Tel Aviv from Dublin via Gdansk. I’ll be there for 3 days. Will that raise red flags that I’m only there a short time? I travel a lot but have not been to any neighbouring countries (was in Dubai on an older passport a few years back) I have a Moroccan stamp in my passport from a trip to Marrakesh last December. I’m an Irish Citizen. What kind of welcome will I receive?
It really is all based on your interview and how they view you. I didn’t think I had any flags either, though I came to realize it was Egypt when he asked me several questions about it. For what it’s worth, I was told that if you visit the West Bank that can be a flag, though that was not something that came up in my interview.
I would just like to asks some insight of my plan coming for a 10days pure vacation in Israel. I am a Philippine passport holder and just finished working there for 5years. Went back in my country last july2017.This vacation is a pure pleasure as i will explore tel aviv and eilat. And visit old friends. Do you think i might have any problem entering Israel? I was under a diplomatic visa as my previous employers are diplomats from Europe. But never had a bad record and always obeyed rules. Was able to France and Spain thru Israel and had always smooth entering and coming out of ben gurion.
Thank you in advance!!!
Left BG airport a few days ago! I got the magic level … 6 tag so my exit and security process was horrible. Was alone on business, not especially suspect to be honest. Maybe was randomly selected 6 cos I have no clue why no many flags at me…
A false alarm was triggered when I was body scanned so they were absolutely crazy with me, triple checking every thing. metal detector 3 times. different models… with staff and manager….At least, with all the wipes they did, my backbag is clean as well as electronics.
They were kind of professional somehow but have destroyed my 250 $ pair of shoes!! BS.
Yikes! Thanks for sharing.
When i arrived at the “fast lane” the woman said i was late and should go to that security lane. There was nobody else but me.. then there came the horrible gang.
They asked humiliating questions (can tell you in details if you wanna)
X-ray me (even i said i got x-ray 3 times over the past week already)
threw away all my expensive and new liquids between 50 to 100mL
Can anyone find any info about hand carry liquid limits should be 100mL internationally. But I think this airport with staff abusing their powers. No where said 50mL right?
There’s no international standard on liquids. Each country sets their own security rules.