Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Travel&Dining > Travel Safety/Security > Practical Travel Safety and Security Issues
Reload this Page >

My Tel Aviv airport security experience last week

My Tel Aviv airport security experience last week

Reply

Old Jun 2, 08, 3:09 pm
  #1  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Finally back in Boston after escaping from New York
Posts: 13,509
My Tel Aviv airport security experience last week

I've read so many threads on whether we should/shouldn't have Israeli-type security that I thought I'd jot down my experience last week. I'm going to try to keep this as factual as possible and throw in my opinion at the end. In other words, this is here for informational purposes only, not as a "TSA bashing" post. Obviously, it represents only what I saw, since TLV's security apparatus encompasses far more than what I observed.

Situation: We are a couple of Jewish American 30-somethings. My wife speaks Hebrew, lived for a year on a Kibbutz and has several relatives in Israel. I can read Hebrew (with the vowels) and know five words (mother, father, cat, dog, pencil) as well as an operative phrase or two that I picked up as a teenager and would be censored by FT.

We arrived at TLV at about 4 pm for a 7:30 pm flight, having been sufficiently scared about how long security took at Tel Aviv. You go through a security checkpoint as soon as you arrive and before you reach the ticket counter. There was a line of about 6 people and two uniformed, private security officers handling the line. When we got to the front, the woman asked us where we had been in Israel, how long we had been there and where we were going. Very professional but friendly, and well-trained. She asked if we had friends or relatives in the area, and my wife replied that she did. More questions: Where do they live? What are their names? How often have you been to Israel? Do you speak Hebrew? My wife and the security officer then chatted in Hebrew for a minute, no doubt discussing my devastating good looks and keen intellect. Then a few more questions: Do you have a place you go for the holidays in the states? What is the name of the synagogue? After being satisfied with my wife's answers, she turned to me. She clearly noticed that I hadn't understood their conversation and asked if I spoke any Hebrew. Where did I learn it, in Hebrew school? And then we were done. From the minute we stepped in line until the end of the process, about 10 minutes.

Interestingly, there was a pair of American guys behind us who were backpackers, but they got pulled aside. I'm not sure why, but they got a full bag search. We noticed a few others had gotten pulled aside for bag searches, as well.

After our first stop, we headed to the ticket counter to get our boarding passes. This step was the longest part of our process, with only a few people in line in front of us, but 100 key strokes by the agent to get anything done. Another 10-15 minutes.

After getting our boarding passes, we went through passport control. Tap tap tap of our passport numbers into the computer. They centered on my wife. Were we married? What was her maiden name? What was her father's name. Tap tap tap. Okay, move on. 5 minutes.

Finally, we went through the actual security and WTMD process. No liquids out. No shoes off. I don't remember what happened with my wife's laptop, but I think she had to take it out. The security officers observed the whole process with a sort of casual indifference, or at least that's how it appeared. Belts did come off. Anyone who beeped the metal detector got one more try and then got a quick wanding. There were several lanes open and we made it through in a few minutes.

And then we were done.

Okay, a few observations: The whole process took 30-45 minutes tops, from the minute we walked into the airport to the minute we got to our gate. The entire process was professional and efficient. It involved no unnecessary steps but clearly didn't miss anything. The Israeli version of SPOT is unnecessary, because everyone is a BDO. No one messed around, but no one barked orders, yelled at the passengers or acted unprofessional in any way.

In terms of time, we got lucky. We were there at a relatively quiet time and the airport was built around the security measures, instead of vice versa, meaning there was plenty of space and personnel to keep things moving. I'm guessing that at rush hour, 2-3 hour waits aren't uncommon.

So would I trade in our system for the Israeli system? Tough question. I would absolutely love to see our personnel get the training and leadership that the Israeli group had, focusing on real security. But we simply don't have the same risks that Israel does, and there is no way that we could have a system where a "quick" through the screening process was 30 minutes. Bottom line: there's a lot we can learn, but probably more than we need.

Mike
mikeef is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 3:47 pm
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 195
Originally Posted by mikeef View Post
When we got to the front, the woman asked us where we had been in Israel, how long we had been there and where we were going. Very professional but friendly, and well-trained. She asked if we had friends or relatives in the area, and my wife replied that she did. More questions: Where do they live? What are their names? How often have you been to Israel? Do you speak Hebrew? Do you have a place you go for the holidays in the states? What is the name of the synagogue? Where did I learn it, in Hebrew school? Were we married? What was her maiden name? What was her father's name.

If TSA asks me these questions, I could say "no comments". It is irrevelant for Americans.
KDHawaii is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 3:50 pm
  #3  
Moderator: Coupon Connection & S.P.A.M
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Louisville, KY
Programs: Wild Wild Life, TSA Disparager Diamond (LTDD)
Posts: 57,226
Originally Posted by KDHawaii View Post
If TSA asks me these questions, I could say "no comments". It is irrevelant for Americans.
I wouldn't even say "no comment".
Spiff is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 4:00 pm
  #4  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 195
Originally Posted by Spiff View Post
I wouldn't even say "no comment".
How about this one?

When we got to the front, the woman asked us where we had been in Israel, how long we had been there and where we were going.

none of your business

More questions: Where do they live? None of your business

What are their names? None of your business
How often have you been to Israel? None of your business
Do you speak Hebrew? None of your buisness
Do you have a place you go for the holidays in the states? None of your business
What is the name of the synagogue? None of your business
Where did I learn it, in Hebrew school? None of your business

Were we married? show my wedding rings
What was her maiden name? Due to security, I refuse to answer the question so I"ll take 5th amendment.
What was her father's name. None of your business

Last edited by KDHawaii; Jun 2, 08 at 4:07 pm
KDHawaii is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 4:02 pm
  #5  
Moderator: Coupon Connection & S.P.A.M
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Louisville, KY
Programs: Wild Wild Life, TSA Disparager Diamond (LTDD)
Posts: 57,226
Originally Posted by KDHawaii View Post
or should I say nothing???
That's up to you. I seldom talk to TSA, other than "please change your gloves" and "may I have a complaint form, please?"

I say nothing when attempts are made to chat me up in any way.
Spiff is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 4:14 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 5,628
Originally Posted by mikeef View Post
Interestingly, there was a pair of American guys behind us who were backpackers, but they got pulled aside. I'm not sure why, but they got a full bag search. We noticed a few others had gotten pulled aside for bag searches, as well.
You are Jewish. Your wife speaks Hebrew. That probably helped a lot.

A college friend of mine is Israeli. She dated my roomate (and thereby kinda became my roomate...I would be like "You *do* have your own apartment, don't you?"). They dated for quite a while and went on a couple of trips to Israel. My roommate was Hispanic. (He's still Hispanic - he's just no longer my roommate.) When they would enter and exit he would get the 10th degree until she "rescued" him. It's hard, on the surface, to tell the difference between some Hispanics and some darker Arabs. He worked on his "East LA" accent. "Yo, homes, I'm American esse." He said it didn't help.
JakiChan is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 4:31 pm
  #7  
A FlyerTalk Posting Legend
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Watchlisted by the prejudiced, en route to purgatory
Programs: Just Say No to Fleecing and Blacklisting; SSSS = haraSSSSment
Posts: 87,802
mikeef, thanks for the security trip report.
GUWonder is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 4:31 pm
  #8  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Location: Newport Beach, California, USA
Posts: 36,062
Originally Posted by JakiChan View Post
You are Jewish. Your wife speaks Hebrew. That probably helped a lot.

A college friend of mine is Israeli. She dated my roomate (and thereby kinda became my roomate...I would be like "You *do* have your own apartment, don't you?"). They dated for quite a while and went on a couple of trips to Israel. My roommate was Hispanic. (He's still Hispanic - he's just no longer my roommate.) When they would enter and exit he would get the 10th degree until she "rescued" him. It's hard, on the surface, to tell the difference between some Hispanics and some darker Arabs. He worked on his "East LA" accent. "Yo, homes, I'm American esse." He said it didn't help.
I like that -- "Yo, homes!"

Seriously, though, I think the primary difference between Israeli and U.S. security is that the former focuses on eliminating those who might be threats, whereas the latter is focused (in theory) on eliminating those implements that might by used by those who are threats. I've not been through Israeli security, but I notice that security in the PRC works the same way -- as an obvious American tourist (with his obviously Chinese wife), we are given the quickest and most cursory inspection, as well as a lot of latitude when I "forget" that I have a couple of mini-bottles of vodka in my carryon (I'm always allowed to drink them, and usually offer one to the inspectors, though they always decline).

I understand the concern about ethnic profiling, particularly in the context of non-trained "professionals" like our own TSA, but I can see why Israeli security people would be less concerned with a couple of middle-aged, Hebrew-speaking American Jews than a young man who might fit the profile of someone of concern.
PTravel is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 6:25 pm
  #9  
Moderator: Coupon Connection & S.P.A.M
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Louisville, KY
Programs: Wild Wild Life, TSA Disparager Diamond (LTDD)
Posts: 57,226
Originally Posted by KDHawaii View Post
How about this one?

When we got to the front, the woman asked us where we had been in Israel, how long we had been there and where we were going.

none of your business

More questions: Where do they live? None of your business

What are their names? None of your business
How often have you been to Israel? None of your business
Do you speak Hebrew? None of your buisness
Do you have a place you go for the holidays in the states? None of your business
What is the name of the synagogue? None of your business
Where did I learn it, in Hebrew school? None of your business

Were we married? show my wedding rings
What was her maiden name? Due to security, I refuse to answer the question so I"ll take 5th amendment.
What was her father's name. None of your business
You won't fly out of Israel with those answers, but that should be fine in the US.
Spiff is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 6:28 pm
  #10  
 
Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 195
Originally Posted by Spiff View Post
You won't fly out of Israel with those answers, but that should be fine in the US.
I can always lie or make it up to please them.
KDHawaii is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 6:47 pm
  #11  
nrr
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Programs: AA Executive Platinum; 2MM AA Delta Platinum
Posts: 8,590
Originally Posted by KDHawaii View Post
I can always lie or make it up to please them.
From things I've read, the Israeli's are supposed to be good at catching lies, by asking the same question more than once to trip "you" up.
nrr is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 6:51 pm
  #12  
 
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: Los Angeles
Programs: UA 1K (MR Gld; Hertz 5*), AA 2MM, SPG LT GLD, GP Plt, Mets fan.
Posts: 5,047
Originally Posted by mikeef View Post
Situation: We are a couple of Jewish American 30-somethings. My wife speaks Hebrew, lived for a year on a Kibbutz and has several relatives in Israel. I can read Hebrew (with the vowels) and know five words (mother, father, cat, dog, pencil) as well as an operative phrase or two that I picked up as a teenager and would be censored by FT.

We arrived at TLV at about 4 pm for a 7:30 pm flight, having been sufficiently scared about how long security took at Tel Aviv. You go through a security checkpoint as soon as you arrive and before you reach the ticket counter. There was a line of about 6 people and two uniformed, private security officers handling the line. When we got to the front, the woman asked us where we had been in Israel, how long we had been there and where we were going. Very professional but friendly, and well-trained. She asked if we had friends or relatives in the area, and my wife replied that she did. More questions: Where do they live? What are their names? How often have you been to Israel? Do you speak Hebrew? My wife and the security officer then chatted in Hebrew for a minute, no doubt discussing my devastating good looks and keen intellect. Then a few more questions: Do you have a place you go for the holidays in the states? What is the name of the synagogue? After being satisfied with my wife's answers, she turned to me. She clearly noticed that I hadn't understood their conversation and asked if I spoke any Hebrew. Where did I learn it, in Hebrew school? And then we were done. From the minute we stepped in line until the end of the process, about 10 minutes.

After our first stop, we headed to the ticket counter to get our boarding passes. This step was the longest part of our process, with only a few people in line in front of us, but 100 key strokes by the agent to get anything done. Another 10-15 minutes.

After getting our boarding passes, we went through passport control. Tap tap tap of our passport numbers into the computer. They centered on my wife. Were we married? What was her maiden name? What was her father's name. Tap tap tap. Okay, move on. 5 minutes.

Finally, we went through the actual security and WTMD process. No liquids out. No shoes off. I don't remember what happened with my wife's laptop, but I think she had to take it out. The security officers observed the whole process with a sort of casual indifference, or at least that's how it appeared. Belts did come off. Anyone who beeped the metal detector got one more try and then got a quick wanding. There were several lanes open and we made it through in a few minutes.

And then we were done.

So would I trade in our system for the Israeli system? Tough question. I would absolutely love to see our personnel get the training and leadership that the Israeli group had, focusing on real security. But we simply don't have the same risks that Israel does, and there is no way that we could have a system where a "quick" through the screening process was 30 minutes. Bottom line: there's a lot we can learn, but probably more than we need.

Mike
Mike -- one correction: I don't think there were "private" security people anywhere. It's just a question of who is and isn't in what uniform.

Originally Posted by PTravel View Post
I understand the concern about ethnic profiling, particularly in the context of non-trained "professionals" like our own TSA, but I can see why Israeli security people would be less concerned with a couple of middle-aged, Hebrew-speaking American Jews than a young man who might fit the profile of someone of concern.
Agreed. When I went thru TLV last month (the Sunday after Israeli memorial & independence days), I went to the business/first screening line and had to wait only for the person ahead of me to be questioned. They saw a 40-something American, with a prior Israeli entry stamp, doing a 4-day turn; they asked me why I had come to Israel and I told them it was to visit my son who was there for school. What then seemed to be small talk was well designed to catch a nervous traveller: where did you stay; what did you do for Memorial Day and Independence Day; oh-you had dinner with cousins in Tel Aviv: who are they; do you speak Hebrew; why not - if your son knows enough Hebrew to study here, shouldn't you learn more.

All in all, 3 minutes tops. During that time, my passport was examined, she checked it against a list on her clipboard, & my luggage was eyeballed and stickered. She then pointed me to the BA CW checkin desk and wished me a good flight.
CO FF is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 7:12 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: The Republic of Texas
Programs: AA EXP / CK June 2018 (4MM - 15 years running) HH Lifetime Diamond
Posts: 195
It can be quite different

So I am american, and have at this point travelled to israel some 15 times or so over the last 3 years. Favoring american and one world makes this tough but that is another well drilled thread.

First 2-3 times no issue, all the questions all the right answers.

However the 4th time, after the xray, the bag is taken to the center island for screening. all items removed, all items wiped down. while they have the bag I am taken to an area for further inspection. So the next thing is my pants are 'requested' and my shirt. it is a dressing room style arrangement. he takes these and xrays them, and does other tests maybe.

At this point I am given back the clothes. I am then taken back to the island area and they report that it is all ok, but the bag must be checked. It was a decent size roll aboard. Not only that my briefcase must be checked as well.

I am allowed to keep only one of my phones, (I opt to keep the israeli phone since it will work in US too.)

and I am walked through the remainder of security where dispite the alarms (I was not asked to take my pen or money out before the metal detector) I am pushed through. then my security friend that I am now feeling way too close to, bids me a good trip.

After this, I let the company know I will do alot but I wont do this again. since then there is some travel trustee program that designates me a security center passenger, and now I am expedited almost to the point of being faster than the israeli's. They ask where I stayed last night, and each night, and if that matches the advance information they have, then we have a match, and I go my way.

As some of the thread responses have been of a 'none of your business' I think it is wise to know that they do not live in the world the US lives in. Canada and Mexico tend to not have suicide bombers entering to destroy the us, and take as many of us with us as possible. We did not have to recently bring our kids to work, or sleep in the basement because people were lobbing Kadusha's indiscriminately at anywhere so long as it was at Israel. In short we are not surrounded every day by every surrounding nation, at BEST tolerating us, and in the majority wanting the nation, its people, and way of life erased from the world. if we did this level of security might be seen differently.

I dont speak much (hardly any) hebrew. but I do know the answer to the question asked of me at any entrance to any public building after passing through the metal detector is no. The question is some variant on do you have a bomb/gun/weapon.

I like it better here thanks very much, but respect the measures they take to try to keep as safe as they can. And this is indeed real security. This country would not stand for it under our current circumstances, but let a few more bad things happen, and they just might.
CoyoteExecPlatinum is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 7:22 pm
  #14  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Nov 1999
Posts: 22,241
Originally Posted by KDHawaii View Post
How about this one?

When we got to the front, the woman asked us where we had been in Israel, how long we had been there and where we were going.

none of your business

More questions: Where do they live? None of your business

What are their names? None of your business
How often have you been to Israel? None of your business
Do you speak Hebrew? None of your buisness
Do you have a place you go for the holidays in the states? None of your business
What is the name of the synagogue? None of your business
Where did I learn it, in Hebrew school? None of your business

Were we married? show my wedding rings
What was her maiden name? Due to security, I refuse to answer the question so I"ll take 5th amendment.
What was her father's name. None of your business
I think this is a fantastic way to stay longer in Israel. No doubt you will miss your flight, as a complete exam of person and all belongings can take days. But at least you wont have to pay any change fees for not having flown on your tkted flight.

BTW way I imagine answering the same way in China or Russia will yield you the same results.

@TLV you arent looked down upon, youre not in a line up or held against a wall. Its all very professional. As long as you act accordingly. Be a wise guy and they can be a bigger one. Keep in mind Israel is still technically at War with appx 20 Arab Countries besides Hamas who sends rockets into Southern Israel on a daily basis. Its a far cry from flying out of or into TLV then ALB.

There are unfortunately not enough TSA people, like the Israelis who arent simply on a Power trip etc
craz is offline  
Reply With Quote
Old Jun 2, 08, 7:34 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: PEK and BOS
Programs: BA - Blue
Posts: 3,607
I have to agree that my experiences of israeli security are somewhat more involved than the OP's -- usually 1.5 - 2.5 hours. However, without exception, the security personnel are the most professional, courteous that I have ever met, so you almost don't mind.

And re: lying -- they ask the same question 5 different ways, so having a stack of lies ready-prepared might just be OK, otherwise you will get tripped up (can't see the point myself).

One thing that always amuses me: it takes 10 times longer to leave israel through TLV than to enter it!

tb
trueblu is offline  
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools
Search this Thread