Part of the joys of traveling to and from Israel is the airport security. And when I say “joy” I mean “Dear God, please make me invisible”. While this is seldom a concern for tour group travelers or a reason to fear, traveling alone can be a different story. On all separate occasions, I have been detained in a private room, questioned for 45 minutes upon entering the airport, told they think I have a bomb, and politely escorted through the airport bowels to identify my bag. On the other hand, I’ve been given a warm handshake and welcomed “home,” waved thru the average 1.5 hr security process in 15 minutes, and escorted to the front of a LONG line because a security guard saw my last name and had been to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA. In my experience, it’s a crap shoot.
Israelis are well aware that they are not on any of their neighbors “favorite’s lists.” Nowhere is this more so than Israel’s border guards and passport control. Much like the Israeli military method, Israel encourages those in these active positions to use their best judgment and make decisions on the spot rather than going up the food chain for an executive opinion. While this a contributing factor to the success of Israeli security, it can be a new experience for a Western traveler. After 9/11 when the US added increased airport security measures, an Israeli security official was asked what he thought of the increased US airport security. “You don’t have better security, you have a better way to irritate people,” he replied. Israeli security is one of the best in the world and a little different than what many are used to.
When flying the Israeli airline El Al, you go through an interview before you get to their ticket counter. A smiling and attractive representative kindly asks “Have you been to Israel before?”, “Where else have you traveled?”, “Do you have friends in Israel?”, “What are their names?”, “Where did you meet them?”, “When did you say you visited Israel last?” Sometimes there are 3 questions, sometimes there are 10. They aren’t looking for your answers, but how you respond and your body language. Smile and answer honestly and you are on your way.
Leaving Israel is where the fun begins. You go through four security screenings before you get to your gate, the first one before getting to the ticket counter. After some questions, a yellow sticker with a bar code and a long row of numbers is placed on the back of your passport. I’ve heard multiple unconfirmed rumors that the first number in this row identifies you as a person of interest to the next 3 security points on a scale of 1-5; 1 being “no problem”, 5 being ”work ‘em over real good”. Much to my “joy”, I almost always get a 4 or 5. The only time I got a 1 was when I was traveling with my son, Levi. We both got a 1 and were thru security in record time. A true miracle from God.
Is it a hassle? Sometimes. But given Middle Eastern threats and alternatives, I’m grateful for everyone who does their job. It has been reported that covert Israeli security operations prevent over 97% of all terrorist attacks in Israel. Despite what the media reports, Israel is one of the safest countries I’ve ever been to. This starts as soon as you enter the country. Leave your fear at home and come see for yourself.
Israel is Real,
Doug Hershey is an author, conference speaker and founder of Ezra Adventures. Ezra Adventures specializes in customized and personalized small group travel to Israel, West Bank and Jordan consisting of service projects, adventure day trips and unique biblical sites. Doug has been involved in Israel-related projects and has cultivated unique relationships in Israel for almost 20 years. In 2008, Doug wrote a book called 'The Christian's Biblical Guide to Understanding Israel.' In 2013, he co-authored a joint resolution in support of Israel that passed the Maine State Legislature, making it the 7th state in the US to do so. His ground breaking photo book project “Israel Rising: Ancient Prophecy/Modern Lens” is currently being reviewed by several international publishers which combines historical first hand accounts of the land with exact side by side comparison photos from the 1880s-1940s to today, showing how much the land has blossomed under Israeli sovereignty, just as Scriptures foretold. When he is not in Israel, he has been speaking in churches and synagogues around the United States about the importance of Israel in the Bible, understanding current events from a biblical worldview and how biblical prophecy is coming to pass today in accurate, literal and tangible ways.