Just when you think security at airports can’t get any worse, as is the case currently with the debacle of the “security” in the United States. The experience leaving Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv was less than what I had expected.
As I had heard about how the security checks can be when departing from Israel I planned to arrive as early as possible to the airport. At 1300 the security check lines were opened for the SWISS flight to Zurich. I approached the security area and handed over my passport. They process began with the usual questions, “where have you been?”, “how long have you been here?”, “where did you get your neck scarf?”. The process seemed to go on for only 5 minutes but then took a turn as the officer walked away, with my passport and soon came back with another officer who asked me the same exact questions. Focusing on the Arab stamps in my passport as well as the neck scarf (a khalifa), which I unwittingly wore to the airport — i didn’t really think anything of it, because to me it doesn’t really mean anything other than a scarf. Finally after the second person interrogates me with the same exact questions and then walks away only for a few minutes later the security manager comes over and asks me yet again the same questions. At this stage I’m getting annoyed, yet he says to me, “you seem to be a little anxious.” I reply with, “no, i’m just a little annoyed because you are now the 3rd person to ask me the same exact questions.” to which his reply was, “I do apologize for that, I will be the last as I am the security manager on duty.”
After this process of about 15 minutes I am cleared to pass through to the x-ray scanners to have my luggage scanned. Upon completion of this, I am asked to step to the side for additional screening, which everyone seemed to be going through. At this point, they have begun swiping my bag for who know’s what. Then they ran the papers through a gas chromatography machine, which of course came back positive for something. “I’m sorry sir, your bags have come back positive, which means we will need to do a more thorough check.” The thorough check includes removing every single article from my bag and is placed into a separate bin. Then they take the bag to a back room and do who knows what to it, but when it comes back is all apart. Afterwards he runs a handwand over every single piece that was in the bag and some items are ran through an x-ray machine. This process takes about 30-40 minutes. As he is done checking items I ask him if I can begin repacking my bag. After my luggage was done it was time to start on my hand bags. Out comes the laptop and turned on. Out comes the SLR camera and he says, “we’re going to need to take this into another room and do some further tests on it.” Over my dead body will you take it to another room. Eventually they decide it will be OK to do their “tests” here. Knowing there are pictures of Palestine on the camera, I tell him he will need to wait until I have reviewed the photos – so I could delete the ones that probably would get me additional questions. I had to at first separate the lens from the body. Then they started taking photos of the desk to prove that it was in fact a camera.
While they continue going through my hand luggage I am escorted into “the back room” where I then have to remove all loose articles of clothes and my shoes which are sent to another x-ray machine while I am marched 4 times through a metal detector. I am surprised he didn’t strip search me.
Finally, he says we have concluded my security process and he escorts me to the check-in counter for SWISS. Because my bag is “irregular” I have to present it to a special elevator where they will hand load it onto the plane. Afterwards he escorts me past the secondary security section and right to immigration where I am then clear to leave Israel.
Departing Ben Gurion International Airport, Tel Aviv, Israel
Israeli security agents are, if nothing else, very thorough and security conscious. But I am pretty sure I will not be coming back anytime soon.
The flights home, thankfully, went without a hitch. I flew from Tel Aviv to Zurich, Switzerland and then on to Athens, Greece. I arrived at the airport in Athens at 12:30 in the morning and my flight to Amsterdam was scheduled to leave at about 5:55 that same morning so I opted to stay at the airport. Finally at 3:30 I was allowed to check in for my flight and then proceed to the Business Class lounge where I had something to drink and checked the internet. Once I arrived in Amsterdam I proceeded out of Schengen territory and then to the Business Class lounge. At 12:00 I proceeded to the gate, only to learn that it had been switched for the 2nd time. Arriving at the new gate, I discover that there is a 2-hour delay due to a technical issue with the plane. Back to the Business Class lounge where I talk to the agents about getting rebooked onto another flight back to the US as I really needed to get home. Normally this might not be an issue but my bag has already gone through security screening and is in its sealed container. If they break the seal they will need to re-screen all of the bags. Finally with a delay of 4,5 hours I board the Delta Air Lines Airbus 330-300 (N801NW) back to Minneapolis, arriving home at 21:00.