Lately, there has been news about how security at Israel’s airports have been tightened and people are being asked to login in to their email accounts. Before going to Israel last month, I was told and warned about the excruciating long hours of security and screening one may have to go through; and how people from Arab descent and even Indian descent are targeted specifically. After an eleven hour flight from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, I braced myself for the worst – being sent back on the next flight to US and denied entry into Israel.
As soon as I got out of the aircraft, a security personnel asked me to step aside and had a scan through my passport. I was asked where I live, which country I belong to, why am I in Israel and what was my itinerary. The officer didn’t seem convinced that I was in Israel for tourism, so he asked me to show my airline bookings, followed by the receipt of my Israel visa payment, which I didn’t carry thinking I really didn’t need it to carry with me now that I had a visa to Israel.
Still not convinced by all the information and proofs I submitted, I was escorted by him all the way to the immigration line, and further in to a room and was asked to wait. After about 5 minutes, another officer showed up and the same round of questions followed, in addition to a new one – “are you planning to go to West Bank or Gaza Strip?” My first thought was to lie to him and say no, but I knew I was just a tourist there and there was no reason for me to not tell him that yes, I do plan to go to Bethlehem. The next thing I could see is his both eyebrows raised! I was quite sure this is where my trip ends, before it began, and I will be sent back like many others have reported. But to my surprise, with his eyebrows still raised, he tells me how beautiful Bethlehem is and I should be careful entering the Palestinian territory. All I could do was smile and thank him for his concern.
He handed me a piece of paper with something written in Hebrew and escorted me to the immigration line. Another 10 minutes in the line, answering the same questions one more time to the immigration officer, and I was in Israel!
Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv is considered the most secure airport in the world, with racial profiling of the passengers arriving and departing; and additional security questions.