My Experience With Security & Immigration Flying EL AL To Israel

Filed Under: El Al, Security/TSA

Yesterday I shared my experience flying EL AL’s new 787 from Newark to Tel Aviv, which was a pleasant surprise. One of the things I was most apprehensive about was how the security screening process would be. I wasn’t worried because I have anything to hide, but rather because I figured I’d be questioned endlessly given my travel history.

I’ve heard that security questioning is much more extensive when you’re flying out of Israel than when you’re flying to Israel, and so far I can only chime in on what it’s like to fly to Israel. Furthermore, I should note that on the outbound I was traveling with my mother (which I suspect also makes me less suspicious), while on the return I’m traveling alone.

What was the security process like? This might sound like a weird way to describe it, but it was… refreshing.

The typical US security theatre

Typically I have no respect for the programs we have in place in the US to ensure our flights are safe.

We have the TSA, which consistently misses 80%+ of weapons that are brought through checkpoints in tests. We have TSA officers who are “behavior detection officers,” and that training comes in the form of a one day course, which hardly qualifies them as experts.

And let’s not even talk about the air marshal program. More air marshals have been arrested than they’ve performed arrests. ‘Nuff said.

Meanwhile by all accounts, EL AL has exceptional security. They’re the world’s most targeted airline, and they have a perfect safety record. That says a lot, so I was excited to experience proper security for once.

My experience with security departing the US on EL AL

Before being able to check-in, all passengers have to take part in an interview. They had podiums where passengers were asked these security questions.

Since we were in business class, we got to skip the economy queue. The person who questioned us was extremely friendly. She explained that she was going to ask us a few questions for our safety and the safety of the other passengers. She asked all the questions you usually get when traveling to the US, like whether we packed our own bags, what our relationship was, etc.

But in addition to those she asked some other questions as well. She asked if I had any other passports, and when I said I did, she asked to see it. She compared it to my US passport and leafed through it. She asked very detailed questions about where our bags were packed, where we stayed the night before, where we came from the day before, how long we were going to Israel for, what the purpose of our trip was, etc. She also asked if we had been to any other Middle Eastern countries, and if so, why.

She also explicitly asked if we had a bomb or anything that looked like a bomb. She also explained that we shouldn’t let anyone give us anything between check-in and the gate.

All-in-all the questioning took just a few minutes. Clearly she was much better trained than the typical random contract workers who ask these questions. EL AL is known for profiling (I’m sure people have differing opinions on that), so I suspect I got off easy, especially since I was traveling with my mother. At the end of the interview we had sheets of paper put into our passports that had some sort of codes on them.

The only other questions were as we boarded the plane, where another security officer asked if we had purchased any duty free items, or if anyone had given us anything between when we checked in and now.

My experience with EL AL’s onboard security

In the US I can spot an air marshal from a mile away. They’re so obvious and predictable, and I find that ridiculous. While I wasn’t going out of my way to look for one, I was impressed that I didn’t notice any air marshals on my EL AL flight. There definitely was one aboard (it’s my understanding that there always is), so it’s nice that they actually blend in.

I took tons of pictures the whole flight, and no one said anything. Heck, pictures were even encouraged, probably largely since they’re proud of the new plane.

My experience with immigration in Israel

Immigration was also easy. We were just asked why we were visiting, what our relationship was, and if we had been to any Middle Eastern countries. I explained I had been to several, and she asked which ones. I said I had been to the UAE, Qatar, etc., because I fly with Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar a lot. Moments later we had our entry stickers. Easy peasy.

Bottom line

There’s no denying that EL AL and Israel do security right, so I was curious to see it firsthand. The experience was much less invasive than I was expecting, especially given my travel patterns. I suspect that might have been related to traveling with my mother, or perhaps some other profiling. I’m curious if it’s different on the way out, when I’m traveling alone.

If you’ve traveled to Israel, what was your security and immigration experience like?

  1. Do prepare for the exit, though. As you know, they actually have a reason to be this tight with security and I find exiting is many times more complicated than entry. Which is good – it keeps you safe.

    Just answer their questions truthfully, be patient when you’re asked to unpack your luggage, be ready to show photos on your phone or to pull up this blog and show it to them.

    It is what it is and unlike the utterly incompetent TSA, the Israelis know what they’re doing.

  2. Even the most cursory Google search will pull up your blog and easily justify why you travel the way you do, and lead to classifying you as low-risk. I imagine your exit will not nearly be as burdensome as a normal traveller with your kind of travel pattern.

  3. I don’t remember much about entering Israel (we flew in from LHR), I was exhausted. It was quick though, and a woman at customs said she liked my pants, but I think she was joking. Leaving Israel was much more intense, and I do remember someone along the way specifically asking if I had a bomb. I did not, but almost confessed anyway because she intimidated me so.

  4. I have been to Israel a number if times (great country and so modern too and many pple speak English too which helps) and both entering and leaving has been simply easy.

    The only thing different to the US is the ElAl security questions before check-in, otherwise everything is v simple and probably quicker than in the US Airports. The lines are not long in my experience, and if you are not suspicious you will breeze along to the Gate from check-in.

  5. @David – “… normal traveler with your kind of travel pattern.” LOL 🙂 especially about “normal traveler”.

    @Lucky – you went through a standard immigration process, I have had the same few times.
    I find this US/Europe circus hilarious when “contract” workers are asking you questions just because they required by the protocol. In Israel, I feel like they really mean it by asking you “where have you been”, “where did you pack”.

  6. I can spot an air marshal as well. It’s so sad. Get this, I only fly about once a year. They really stand out, badly. There are a few things I look for.

  7. I dont think Lucky will be sharing those details of how to spot an Air Marshal.

    As a deaf person myself, I use my eyes more so I see things that a hearing person normally don’t see. There’s a pattern to watch for, but that’s all the details I am going to share.

  8. Exiting bag check is nuts. But needed and you feel safe.
    Also, going back a second time to Israel is where the questioning and hold ups and immigration can happen (for hours). Annoying, but I don’t complain

  9. When asked reason to visit during the exit interview I hope you answer:” I came to see for myself if it’s true the reputation of men here as insatiable beasts in bed.” 😉

  10. Unless things have changed, Air Marshals never travel alone (often in pairs), and often take up the aisle seats in the first non-bulkhead seat on the plane. They have a single carry on that goes under the seat in front of them and they don’t drink alcohol.

    If you’re seated in row 2 in one of these seats, it will be changed for “Operations” as much as a few days before travel.

  11. I suspect you had a fairly easy-ride due being white American male who crucially is Jewish – you wouldn’t ever have been a suspect no matter how many flights you took with the ME3 or entry stamps you have. It is well known they profile and I am pretty sure even if you had multiple entries to Iran – you would have still glided through…

  12. (as someone who has been subject to “extra security” by the TSA on my first visit to the US, I still find it rather galling that lets face it white people always shrug and say “well it was fine for me…” as if they have to experience it (an impossibility given the reasoning for being singled out) and that we must be exaggerating or imagining the latent prejudice that exists and the unfairness. One doesn’t have to look for online or on Skytrax to understand the “pleasure” of El Al’s security usually…)

  13. Recently, i traveled to and from Ben Gurian Airport. Upon my return i count 7 checks or screenings before we were permitted on the airplane. The first was some sort of detection devise the taxi drove over. We were not asked to remove our shoes, dump our water or remove our belts. We did not get scanned by an x ray machine.

    No question we were profiled. But what ever works !

  14. Lucky: Was there anything different about the gate where you boarded the plane.
    I’m asking because a month I flew United into Newark on an aircraft that would become their flight to Tel Aviv several hours later that evening. I noticed that the gate was cordoned off with signs indicating that this was a special security area and that once you left the gate area you would not be able to reenter the gate area itself.

  15. My good friend is Brazilian and traveled to Israel a few years ago to visit her boyfriend at the time. She was interrogated in a separate room for over two hours on arrival, all her bags searched, and aggressively interrogated about her hair dryer and other electronic items asking if they were vibrators/sex toys. Apparently there’s a profiling of Latin American women traveling to Israel to work as prostitutes. She was in tears throughout the whole thing and vowed never to travel to Israel again, and now is extremely anxious going through security in any country. I’ve heard Brazilians have a rough time through security in a lot of countries they visit.

  16. Security at Ben Gurion is very intricate and impressive. I’ve traveled in and out of that airport dozens of times and it never ceases to amaze me how thorough security is. Over the years there are security measures I noticed that go unnoticed by most. A family friend uses to be an air marshal for El Al. (Fun fact, they don’t consider air marshals to be full-time employment, it’s a side job that you’re only allowed to perform it for a certain amount of years via military service). This family friend mentioned some of the “hidden” security measures at the airport that start as much as a few miles away from the airport. Keep your eyes open, especially on the drive and road checkpoint and you might be amazed at what you see. Also, pay special attention to the glass above the check-in counters. You have a trained eye, I’m sure you’ll pick up on some of the interesting hidden features. Enjoy your time in Israel! It’s a truly unique country.

  17. I’ve been in and out of TLV twice and will be again in Spring. One thing to note: the moment you purchase a ticket bound for TLV your background is checked and recorded. My second trip when exiting the airplane and walking through the hallway towards immigration there were female security agents looking at passengers and as soon as we made eye contact she waved me over to her for questioning while others kept walking. Plainly put they already know everything about you prior to arrival everything additional when you get there is just added layers.

  18. Israel does what Israel needs to do to survive. They get a pass from me.

    I recall 2-3 years ago checking in at Heathrow right next to the El Al check-in. I counted eight armed guards with machine guns including two snipers way above. And they were just the British cops – no idea who the Israeli SS guys were because they are that good.

    We should put Mossad in charge of TSA

  19. If you have an Israeli stamp in your passport will you have trouble entering other Middle Eastern countries?

  20. Why do people keep saying @Ben is Jewish? Unless I missed it, he has never said that on here and there is nothing online that would give any indication that he is.

    Profiling and El Al type security are great if you are not the one being profiled. If, like many of us, you get through security in 5 minutes than it is fine. If you are Arab, Muslim, Asian, darker skinned or anyone who might generate suspicion and you are held up for hours, have everything removed from your luggage, have your clothes searched, have to answer questions about your sexual orientation, have to provide your Facebook or iPhone passwords, possibly have your camera or computer confiscated and returned to you at a later date, then it ain’t so great.

  21. Did you have your passport stamped also? Don’t certain middle eastern countries bar entry if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport?

  22. @Josh: In the USA, when the TSA does that, we don’t get insulted because it’s arbitrary and random. We can assume safely that it has nothing to do with your likely profile as a terrorist and everything to do with the TSA circus. It’s annoying, but at least it’s not insulting.

  23. chances are the exit may be more invasive but you are straight forward with them and don’t give any smart ass answers, you’ll be fine.

  24. So what happens if you hold a second passport, but aren’t carrying it?

    Also, @Lucky, do you still have a second US passport? Did they ask to see that too?

  25. @LA: “I’ve heard Brazilians have a rough time through security in a lot of countries they visit.” Could you please tell the source of that comment? I have a Brazilian passport and travelled over 5 million miles carrying mine to over 45 countries. I have never had a single issue going through security or immigration in any country. Just FYI, Brazil ranks #14 in the Passport Power Ranking with 144 visa free countries, only 10 countries less than the US passport which ranks #7.

  26. @Lucky: what would have happened if you did not have your other passport with you? I have 3 passports from different countries and I do not carry all 3 when I am traveling unless I need different ones for specific reasons like entering in Europe or coming back to the US. Do you think they would not allow you to board if you did not have all passports with you?

  27. All that questioning, security, weapons, armed fortress style airport, etc.

    And why only El Al and Israel?

    Pretty easy. They’re targeted a lot… but why?

    Think about it. If you need that much security, and you’re that much of an attack risk, there’s a reason.

    Why isn’t Copenhagen or Oslo like this? Same thing – airport, airplanes, flying people, etc.

    Oh that’s right… because it’s Yis-rael.

    There’s a reason why they’re hated. Not hard to figure that out.

  28. @santastico: from literally all of my Brazilian friends. They also complain about how difficult it is to get visas. One of my friends came to the US as an aupair and was changing her visa to a student visa and to do that she had to go home to São Paulo and sit for the interview and get the visa physically changed in her passport. She waited like 3 years before finally going home and doing it because she was terrified her visa would get rejected and she wouldn’t be allowed back into the US. (That happened to a few of her friends who went to the US as au pairs – visas sometimes just arbitrarily get denied) They all tell me how difficult it can be to travel to many countries because there is a perception and profiling that they’ll overstay and work there. Glad you’ve never experienced any issues mate good for you…I have a few very close friends from São Paulo and this is what they have all told me.

  29. @LA: You are correct about the US and some European countries since many Brazilians enter the countries with the intention to stay illegally. However, it is not the same to all Brazilians. This usually happens to young people traveling alone with no way to prove financial records or employment. The example you gave is typical and does not happen only to Brazilians. Aupairs come to the US with the intention to return but once they get to know the country, people, etc.. they decide to stay. Brazilians do not have issues traveling anywhere if they do not fit the profile I described.

  30. Security on departure from TLV is much more intense than the entry immigration process at TLV – plenty of info on that on the internet, a self-professed “travel expert” should have known that.

    And there’s as much of a counter-intelligence function to the exit interviews at TLV as there is a an aviation security function. Once they’ve got you in country – they want to find out if you have any contacts or info that might be useful, and then make sure they get the chance to interview you if you do. That’s a function of the screening questions you will get at departure.

    * I travel to Israel fairly regularly.

  31. The Zimbwawean aupair came to baby sit a few 40 year olds…. a joke ok , a joke.

    Thanks,I read about security in the places I visit.
    I am planning a trip to Israel, but things are getting hot in that area of the workd again, now that Prince Al Salman has cracked down against enemies in Saudi Arabia, Yemen is out of control, and has “detained” Lebanon’s prime minister.
    I hope things simmer down soon.

  32. @Trex and @Gwaray – you too should study some and get a degree because so far; you’re only flaunting your ignorance…

    @Pauly O = Duh… They are surrounded by countries that wouldn’t shed a tear if they were destroyed.

  33. I found departing Isreal MUCH more intensive than entering. Flew from Newark and had what felt like “TSA part B” – no questions, just a second metal detector etc. to get into the cordoned off gate area.
    Upon leaving Israel, waited in a long line just to check-in – was questioned before going to the check-in counter and especially probed about my visit to Indonesia a couple years prior. Then went to actual security where I waited in line for 30 minutes and they kept taking random people out of line and sending them elsewhere. Proceeded to go through everything in my luggage and swab ALL electronic devices, chargers, etc.
    All-in-all it didn’t particularly bother me because I arrived with plenty of time but was definitely a whole different process leaving than entering.

  34. When you occupied others land and opress other peoples freedom,you need to up your security.
    I am a British citizen but i will never travel to that apartheid country,i will be denied just because of my name and decent,and my opposition to their politics.
    Take time if tgey allow you to go and see Palestinian area,like the ghetto of south Africa.

  35. @Um Yeah
    I was just about to post that… the safety record is far from perfect. Its probably something they market though.

  36. El Al or Isreal as a whole has many more years in the security business, 20 years a go i worked in CPH airport, when El Al was flying it was out of T2, here the first floor opposite check in, had bullet proof glass where heavy equipped police stood – at that time it was not a normal sight, as the Danish police most severe incident was to help ducklings over the road.
    In the check in line El Al or should i say Isreal security officers where interviewing passengers and walking around and keeping a profiling eye on the passengers, all luggage was x-rayed at check in.
    But who can blame them for the security?

  37. “I came to see for myself if it’s true the reputation of men here as insatiable beasts in bed”

    And leave very disappointed at the reality…

  38. @Mohamad I agree and Palestine is a beautiful land. I don’t understand why in 1800 jews from New York City all of a sudden decided to move to Palestine to make it their own and call it Israel. Very unfortunate. But Israel has the right to defend herself. In the Six Day War every country in the Middle East surprise attacked Israel and she took some of their land just for messing with them in the first place.

    El Al has an impeccable safety record unprecedented in the aviation industry. If anyone remembers the movie Passenger 57 with Wesley Snipes there was a line “except the Israelis they’ve never been #($$* with. They would never let them on the plane”

    disclaimer lol

  39. You will be asked more questions regarding your stay, type of work, what hotel. As LY have already posted your flight pics on their site you may be in their system as a “VIP”. The LY check in area is vast so find the J/C/Platinum etc. area, (far right if I recall) quicker lines and dedicated lines. Also may need to explain why traveling out with your Mom. Did you meet anyone for work related matters in Israel? If you were with them majority of the time, they can submit your details for a “security center letter” it’s something that they complete in a dedicated portal and provide the passenger with a Code for the Israel Airports Authority security department – makes the process very quick – actually can also get it before going to Israel – LY security can access the info at an outstation

  40. @Um Yeah: About 75% of those incidents are mostly unsuccessful terrorist attacks targeted specifically against the airline, that were prevented precisely because of the enhanced security measures El Al use.

    @Nfd : See above

  41. @Josh – Ben has said he has a Jewish background and he has also said several times he doesn’t eat pork which is why he eschews certain options in terms of catering inboard particularly on East Asian carriers. That’s not an issue in itself, but I suspect that helps in him not being interrogated – as others have said he would have been checked from the moment he booked the ticket. It is an issue when it becomes racial profiling, especially when I am certain from Jewish friends that they are almost never interrogated when visiting Israel.

  42. @justin h
    Just to make it clear the 6 days war was started by Israel,historic fact,just google it and you will find out.
    Israel have the right to exist not st the expense of the Palestinian.

  43. El Al has the same level of security around the world as it does in Israel. So security on leaving Israel is not more intense than when flying to Israel on El Al. If you have flown to Israel on Delta or United or anyone else, you will notice much more security on the way out. If you flew there on El Al, it will be the same in both directions.

  44. “@Josh – Ben has said he has a Jewish background and he has also said several times he doesn’t eat pork which is why he eschews certain options in terms of catering inboard particularly on East Asian carriers. That’s not an issue in itself, but I suspect that helps in him not being interrogated – as others have said he would have been checked from the moment he booked the ticket. It is an issue when it becomes racial profiling, especially when I am certain from Jewish friends that they are almost never interrogated when visiting Israel”

    I’ve searched again and I found no reference on this site or any other to him being Jewish. He doesn’t eat pork, but he does eat shellfish. Remember the famous lobster roll incident?

  45. @Josh – He’s mentioned it in a previous post about El Al, as for w long time there was an impression he didn’t want to fly them and a lot of criticism of him not doing a review. Also my impression from Jewish friends who are mostly non-religious is although a lot don’t follow kosher rules including eating shellfish, mixing dairy/meat, many won’t go near pork still – it’s a mindset thing and how you’re brought up, it’s seen as disgusting. Anyway I am just speculating, Ben can confirm either way if he would like to but even he isn’t Jewish,he still has an advantage for the other reasons mentioned.

  46. (I was also under impression the other reason for going to Israel was because of his mother wanting to go due to their ancestry)

  47. He said his mother has always wanted to go to Israel, but there was nothing said about her ancestry. I have long wanted to go to Bali, but I am neither Balinese nor Hindu.

  48. Either way this all rather misses the point about privilege and discrimination with Israel. Even if Ben is not Jewish he is still in a privileged position. My issue with this post is the aura that is being communicated that “Israeli security is sooo amazing”. I have had Jewish friends tell me I should visit Israel but also quite frank that they are racist and I will almost certainly be interrogated due to my race. Posts like this give too much credit and innocence on the perpetrators of discrimination and the fact that minorities are not believed due to privileged white people having not experienced it themselves…

  49. Absolutely agreed. I wrote in my earlier post that El Al Security is great if you are not the one being profiled.

  50. @snic HAHAHAHAHA thank you for that. Didn’t know that existed. Amazing.

    @vlcnc dude, you missed the point. In fact, your comment has nothing to do with the point of this post. Regardless, Israel is its own country and gets to make its own rules. If you think their profiling is racism, don’t go there. But the simple fact is it works, it’s not illegal, and whether you think it’s bad or not is wholly irrelevant.
    Also, so what if you’re interrogated because of your race? It’s your privilege to visit a country of which you are not a citizen. Why do you feel entitled to not being profiled?

    But that is quite literally NOT the point of the post, nice attempt at hijacking it.

  51. @mattThe point is to represent a view of El Al’s security experience, so it is precisely the point. Also you seem like a lovely person… Privilege must be so comforting…

    @Josh Noted, but I guess I was trying to highlight it’s not so benign as the post makes out…

  52. Why is everyone bitching about “privilege”? Yeah, Western Europeans and European-Americans generally don’t run around blowing things up like Muslims do, so that’s why we’re not targeted: we behave like civilized people.

    Sorry, your feelings and virtue signaling will never erase fact.

  53. @William Y. you’re soo right. Those European-Americans in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs are absolutely top-notch, civilized people. So glad we don’t burden ourselves with these pesky and time wasting security measures like background checks or in any way prevent these upstanding citizens from buying guns. It’s just not needed! We are the superior, civilized race and culture. It’s in our blood!

  54. Pertinent or not, my last flight out of Cairo was just as the US President announced the restriction on laptops on flights departing from several airports. I was actually changing planes in LHR, but the beleaguered Egyptians, apparently desperate to be compliant, had set up extra, intensive security measures.
    Short version: I was required to put my belongings through seven x-ray machines along the route to the plane. I was patted down at each stop, required to take off a jacket and a shirt at some stops, but not others. In some places the cord to my laptop was “sequestered” (their word, not mine) until I got to another station along the line. The mouse was taken separately, passed along 2 or 3 stations. I was questioned separately by males and females. The final destination of the British Airways flight was Heathrow, but I was asked each time where I was going and if I was stopping before I got there. The laptop was never taken until the last station, but I was told repeatedly that I could not take it into the United States. Finally, the last search was conducted by BA where they told me that I could take my laptop with me on the plane, however, it would be taken from me and returned once I was seated.
    A BA flight attendant took the laptop, walked 10 feet behind me and gave it to me once I had found my seat. I had to ask him to go in search of the cord and the mouse.
    I am not suggesting that the Egyptians were in any way at fault for anything. But I do think internationally a hodgepodge mess of security has emerged, worsened by the US. The Israelis seem to have gone their own way and come up with a superior system.

  55. Getting into Israel is easy, no problem, getting out that’s a completely different story, get ready for 5 controls and interview with security agent, asking questions and questions, even silly ones, just to check if you are not making up your story

  56. I have travelled many times to Israel, with my wife who is Nigerian. My mother is Israeli so I speak Hebrew, but was raised in the UK and USA. We travlled on ElAl twice to Israel, each time got many questions as are discussed in the comments. On one flight the flight attendant was very rude to my wife and insisted she sit in economy after she exited the toilet. She had to explain we were in business class. He gave a lame apology. On landing and leaving I credit my Hebrew with minimizing the security unpleasantness. A few months ago she flew by herself from the UK to Israel. All was fine until she left the lounge and was met by two officers who took her to a room and detained her and went through every item she had for 90 mins. She has never been so humiliated, but refused to lose her cool. Upon arrival in Israel she was taken to a room and they again went through all her luggage. I have no doubt this was racial profiling. I cancelled her return ticket to London via el al and instead changed the us airline ticket that was london-usa, to tlv-usa. She has no problem leaving Israel on that airline. I love high security but I am against the disgusting treatment my wife endured and we will never give Elal another dime, and we do tell people about this. Regardless of your political view, the country is beautiful and we pray for justice and peaceful resolution of the conflict.

  57. Israel is basically a us military base in the middle east. The harassment and rudeness by many “security officers” is beyond pale. We get harassed constantly–I’m Jewish and my husband is black. We all “elite” member travellers etc….doesn’t mean jack.

  58. @LA I also have a Brazilian passport and second what @santastico said. Ive never had any problems getting in and out of countries around the world (been to middle east, europe, etc). What your Brazilian friends said is correct, it’s a pain to get a VISA to the US but besides that it’s a breeze. We have the #14 most powerful passport with visa free entrance to 144 countries and what you said about Brazilians having a rough time in immigration is hilarious, in my experience. So not true. But also depends on your circumstances, traveling alone, etc.

  59. Lucky- i cant wait to read your post about leaving Israel. Will probably be very different. But Israel has to protect themselves, they do what they gotta do. God bless Israel and hope you’re trip is nothing short of amazing!

  60. Oh, LA —

    If European-Americans were the problem, those would the ones Israel would screen for. But we aren’t, because unlike Muslims, we’re civilized people.

  61. @LA: I only have the brazilian passport, and never had any trouble entering other countries.
    Getting a US visa is a pain if you don’t have patience, but other than that it’s not bad. Of course it’s different if you try to get a work visa.
    I think brazilians likes to overexaggerate their experiences, that’s why you have this feeling that we aren’t trusted in other countries.
    The longest I had to talk to a immigration officer was in Japan, and that’s my fault, because I didn’t had my friend (where I was staying) telephone number in hand, but even that was like…10min
    Entering US is a breeze. They try to say something in portuguese or tell me that I don’t look brazilian (I’m asian descendent).

  62. As a Singaporean of Chinese ethnicity, my previous experiences departing TLV as a business traveller (on LH and TK) have been nothing short of thoroughly unpleasant. I understand the rationale for the emphasis on airport security, but none of the officers seemed to display any empathy when carrying out their duties. Most were downright arrogant, which is consistent with my experiences with Israeli service staff in general.

    Surely there are ways to weed out suspicious traveller accounts while maintaining a cordial disposition instead of adopting an accusatory tone with every traveller until the real security threats crack.

  63. I’m a Jew, and I’ll be the first to say: Israel is an apartheid state. I’d no more travel there than I would travel to South Africa during their apartheid reign of terror. How people gloss over this modern day history is beyond me. (Tip: you can be a Zionist without being inhumane…crazy how that works!)

  64. A few things:

    You may want to change the line “Typically I have no respect for the programs we have in place in the US to ensure our flights are safe”. The programmes in America don’t make passengers safe, we all know that.

    Why carry your German passport with you if you’re not going to be using it? “She asked if I had any other passports, and when I said I did, she asked to see it”

    “She also explicitly asked if we had a bomb or anything that looked like a bomb”. WTAF?! Any normal place, you say the B word, the whole place gets evacuated and you get arrested. Seriously, what the fuck was she thinking?

    “we shouldn’t let anyone give us anything between check-in and the gate” even stuff you buy? She should’ve clarified

  65. Given the efficiency of the whole process, it’s strange that other nations don’t use this system. London, Paris, Brussels, Barcelona and various German cities have suffered terrorist attacks recently so it makes sense for the UK/Europe to adopt this system.

    I’m sure Israel would advise how to carry out the checks efficiently if it proved to be difficult.

  66. I had visited Israel Oct 2017 and had an almost comical experience with security leaving the country. First, it had taken me so long to get to the airport that I was in danger of missing my flight. When I got to the interview station, there was a guy in front of me that was being grilled. That process most of last about 10 minutes. The agent called me forward and asked how I was. It told him frazzled. That immediately got his interest and he pointed asked what the problem was. I told him that AM rush hour Tel Aviv traffic was as bad as Washington, DC and I had nearly missed my flight. He chuckled and passed me through in about 20 seconds. HOWEVER, I’ve visited Israel before, have a Son living in Israel and am Jewish. I suspect that they knew all of this before I had hit security and at least for me, security was perfunctory. The last time I had visited they asked the derivation of my last name and closely watched my reaction. These guys are PROS.

  67. ELAL security is lead and directed by local border patrol and the Shaback (sort of FBI). They are good because they utilize local assets and are trained by them (and all of them are ex-IDF infantry and special units). They don’t deny their profiling methods, and say they have no other choice. At least they don’t hide behind ridiculous TSA BS arguments and actually do their job.
    About it being harsh, I personally don’t care since I’ve been interrogated in many countries (like US, Switzerland, Argentina) and it’s just something you have to deal with.
    Be prepared to where you are flying, dress accordingly and stay polite – you’ll be fine.

  68. The only time visited Israel was in 1977 and believe me security was just the same as it is now. I got detained several times on the way in and way out. They took apart my hairdrier and handed me the bits. It never worked again. I have no particular desire to go there again and BTW am White; if I need to see my Israeli clients I’ll meet them in Italy.

  69. First time in Israel ,flew El Al. Was so anxious to experience the country. The market in Tel Aviv, the beaches, Jerusalem. Tourist all the way. Accompanied by two friends. We are all females. They are white I am black. I was rudely grilled. Asked why I don’t visit China or Japan . Really , the male security asked me this.I’m 56 yrs old , not a threat to anyone, just a Christian woman wanting to see the land of Christ. My friends were not treated this way or asked any of these questions. I guess Israel hates people of any African ancestry, I am a light complexion black. Wish I could subtract my tax payer dollar from the aid they receive.

  70. I flew SFO to Tel Aviv on United in January of this year (2018).
    I experienced the same exit interview. I heard those podium computers – which they ask you not to look at – have connections to the FBI, Interpol, Mossad, et al. I seem to recall all non-Israelis were on a separate line and the El Al terminal is separate. There was a man on the line ahead who was pulled aside after the initial screening and was interview by an additional team. He was still being interviewed after I cleared security. I have no idea his destination or airline.

    There were two more levels of screening. The next was similar to the US with the xrays and conveyor belts. And then there was a third and final was at the gate. A set of tables were set up and they made many people unpack their carryons. I don’t remember what they did with mine – it may have just been a quick look. Interestingly enough, you could not board with bottled water purchased after security.

    On the outbound flight in San Francisco, I initially cleared the standard TSA. At the gate, there was an escalator down to an Israeli Security Area where you went through a detail check of your belongings. I think they took inkless fingerprints and ran them through a computer. If you needed to use the restroom, you’d have to ascend the escalator and then go through security again.

    The secured gate area had work stations with charging and free wifi.

  71. I am a caucasian female in my 50’s. I was going to Israel for the first time. My sister and her husband and I were meeting up at Newark airport to make the flight. I arrived before them. I went through the screening and apparently failed the interview. They were very concerned about my trip to Egypt made in March 2018. They wanted me to call my sister, I explained they were still flying and had not landed. I was made to wait for 1.5hrs until they arrived. So we went through screening together, then they noticed my sister was born in Turkey while our parents were stationed there. That created more interest!! Finally after about 30 minutes they let us through!! I appreciate the extra security, I do. But what if I had been going to Israel alone?? I don’t think I would have been allowed to fly with El Al.

  72. Hi, I am traveling with a group in Feb 2019 from the U.S. The airport web site says you will need to fill out an L17 form prior to landing a give it to them along with your passport at security, and then show it again as you leave. I have heard conflicting reports on this and want to make sure the group is informed.

    Do you have any information on this?

  73. i booked a flight with Qantas, one way biz, from TLV (el al)- ATH(emirates)-EWR .. only one hour 25 mins .. will i be able to check my bag through? or no way will TLV allow me to because they have no relations? Or is a common carrier (qantas) sufficient?

  74. It sounds easy peasy with you. You gotta keep in mind they use racial/ethnic profiling; so the experience is not the same with everyone. When I pass they usually give me hard time and keep under questions for hours at TLV. well, that’s because I identify as a Palestinian. Even being a U.S. citizen, they won’t care and still treat me different that you. Although these practices are thought to be safe, I still won’t praise them if I were you. I hope no system like theirs ever happen in the U.S. Praise to our constitutions that protects us from such!

  75. I was told by someone that the security people who check the carry-on bags at El Al must then travel on the plane involved. I’ve never been able to find verification of this. I don’t see how this would workable.

  76. Regarding one of the most important on board security measures of El Al- El Al is the only airline that I know to install double doors for the cockpit. That means that under no circumstances the cockpit door is open in flight.

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